About The Song

According to McLean, “American Pie” was originally inspired by the death of Buddy Holly. “I loved his music,” he told. “When that whole crash happened, it was a real ache in my heart. So, I ended up bringing back all those memories of 1959 and the things that happened later.”

“The Day The Music Died” is February 3, 1959, when Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash after a concert. McLean wrote the song from his memories of the event (“Dedicated to Buddy Holly” was printed on the back of the album cover).

The Beatles Sgt. Pepper album was also a huge influence, and McLean has said in numerous interviews that the song represented the turn from innocence of the ’50s to the darker, more volatile times of the ’60s – both in music and politics.

McLean was a 13-year-old paperboy in New Rochelle, New York when Holly died. He learned about the plane crash when he cut into his stack of papers and saw the lead story.

Even though McLean was unknown outside of folk circles, this song took off pretty quickly. The American Pie album was released in October 1971, with the title track issued as a single a short time later. The song earned lots of airplay and hit #1 in the US on January 15, 1972; a week later, the album hit the top spot. The song stayed at #1 for four weeks, the album for seven.The Recording Industry Association of America’s project “Songs of the Century” ranked this song number 5.

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