American Pie, by Don McLean, released November…

American Pie, by Don McLean, released November, 1971.

Funny thing about this one: the single version is longer than the album version! The album version runs 8:33, but that was too long to fit on one side of a single in 1971. Instead, it’s split into sections of 4:11 (A-side) and 4:31 (B-side), to allow a little overlap when turning the record over.

It’s understandable that people bring up “American Pie” when the anniversary of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper (JP Richardson) comes around every Feb. 3, because that’s where the song starts. After that, though, it goes further into America, politics, religion, fantasy, reality, dreams, and more. As Don McLean said on his website:

Metaphorically the song continues to evolve to the present time. It is not a nostalgia song. American Pie changes as America itself is changing.

…but tumblr folks should also note two things.

1) Don McLean was a huge fan of Buddy Holly in high-school, and had no idea why the rest of the kids in his school didn’t get it. They didn’t even care when Buddy died.

I mean, I went to school and mentioned it and they said, ‘So what?’ So I carried this yearning and longing, if you will, this weird sadness that would overtake me…

Sound familiar? 

2) Maybe it was more than just “weird sadness.” Don has talked about wrestling with depression – which of course is different than being sad. “American Pie” was a huge hit, but that only made things worse. 

The success I got with ‘American Pie’ really threw me off. It just shattered my lifestyle and made me quite neurotic and extremely petulant. I was really prickly for a long time.

If the things you’re doing aren’t increasing your energy and awareness and clarity and enjoyment, then you feel as though you’re moving blindly. That’s what happened to me. I seemed to be in a place where nothing felt like anything, and nothing meant anything.

Literally nothing mattered. It was very hard for me to wake up in the morning and decide why it was I wanted to get up.

Sound familiar?

This really is one of the most amazing pop songs ever recorded, for so many more reasons than most people ever talk about.