Don McLean – American Pie – Parts I & II Song Meaning

American Pie – Don McLean | Top 40 Chart Performance, Story and Song Meaning

Chart Performance: Pop (#1 for 4 weeks) and Adult Contemporary ( #1 for 3 weeks); 1972

Story Behind The Song By Ed Osborne

Buddy Holly was Don McLean’s idol; one whose death on February 3, 1959 left a deep impression on the teenaged boy. Soon, McLean was on his own musical path, and eventually found himself working with renowned folk artists. In 1968 the New York State Council on the Arts named him Hudson River Troubadour. Two years later his debut album Tapestry appeared. Now that he was a recording artist, Don returned to the day he found out about Holly’s fate while delivering papers one cold morning in New Rochelle, NY, and recast it as the opening image for American Pie. At over eight minutes the finished master was much longer than other Top 40 tracks, and the lyric content far more complex than the usual romantic fare. Still, radio and fans took to it immediately. Thirteen 13 years after Holly’s tragic death, American Pie sat at the top of the pop chart.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2023 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.

Produced by:

  • Ed Freeman

Lyrics Written by:

  • Don McLean

Awards and Nominations:

  • Grammy Award Nominations: “American Pie” was nominated for Record and Album of the Year at the 14th Annual Grammy Awards (1972)
  • Multi-Platinum and Platinum Awards: Don McLean received a multi-platinum award for “American Pie” and a platinum award for “Vincent” from Universal Music Canada (2022)
  • MTV Movie and TV Award Nomination: “The Day The Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s American Pie” was nominated for Best Music Documentary at the MTV Movie and TV Awards (2023)
  • Library of Congress National Recording Registry: “American Pie” is included in the Library of Congress National Recording Registry
  • Top 5 Song of the 20th Century: The RIAA recognized “American Pie” as one of the top 5 songs of the 20th century.
  • Top 40 Weekly Top Songs of the 70s Chart Position: #20