Don McLean talks about the enduring legacy of American Pie

Dan Rather and Don McLean
Dan Rather and Don McLean (Image credit: Amanda Taraska/News & Guts Media)

Don McLean has spoken about the enduring legacy of his 1971 song American Pie.

It was the title track from McLean’s second studio album and it became a hit around the world and topped the US charts for four weeks. 

It’s still widely known 49 years after it was written – and asked by Dan Rather on his show The Big Interview on AXS TV if he can explain it’s popularity, McLean replies: “I don’t know. There are so many aspects to it.”

He adds: “You’ll see different parts of it used all over. People use it for parodies, kids sing it, children grow up with it because on a certain level it’s a children’s song.

“It’s one of these sort of mythical type folk songs. The poetry is a little bit obscure, but it’s not completely unknowable – it’s pretty understandable. It’s meant to be because it’s really a dream.”

Rather then puts it to McLean that American Pie became a cultural flashpoint for some people when it was perceived to highlight the decline of America.

McLean says: “I was seeing that. To me, when Kennedy was killed, all bets were off. It was a much bigger event than 9/11, which was a huge event. It was the beginning of Americans being in doubt about what they believed in and who they were. That was huge.”

The full interview will be broadcast later today (May 20) on AXS TV at 8pm ET.

In the interview, McLean will also discuss how playing the guitar was “the way out” of his hometown, how he was inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night to write his hit song Vincent, and how he's fought for the ownership of all aspects of his music throughout his career.

Scott Munro
Louder e-commerce editor

Scott has spent 35 years in newspapers, magazines and online as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. Scott joined our news desk in the summer of 2014 before moving to the e-commerce team in 2020. Scott keeps Louder’s buyer’s guides up to date, writes about the best deals for music fans, keeps on top of the latest tech releases and reviews headphones, speakers, earplugs and more. Over the last 10 years, Scott has written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog. He's previously written for publications including IGN, the Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald newspapers, covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to tech reviews, video games, travel and whisky. Scott's favourite bands are Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, New Model Army, All About Eve, The Mission, Cocteau Twins, Drab Majesty, Marillion and Rush.