If you find this site helpful please click "like" here...

American Pie Lyrics and Song Meaning Analysis

American Pie lyrics are Don Mclean's most famous lyrics.  Let's analyze their song meaning and see why this is such a classic song. 

Don Mclean wrote American Pie in both Cold Spring, NY and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1971.  Although many have tried to get him to divulge the meaning of the song, Mclean has never agreed to the speculated meanings created by others.

Let's give it a shot!

It is widely accepted that the American Pie lyrics were sparked by the death of Buddy Holly, Don Mclean's hero.  Mclean grew up in the 50s where he had a paper route and in February 1959 Buddy Holly's plane crashed which was also carrying Richie Valens and the Big Bopper.  Holly's wife was pregnant on "the day the music died".

We are saying goodbye to the decade of the American Dream.  The Chevy was a symbol of apple pie America.  The Levee is a bar near Don Mclean's hometown.  People in the 60s had become disillusioned and the final line is a play on Buddy Holly's "That'll Be the Day".

This verse references 50s songs.  "The Book of Love" was written by the Monotones, "The Bible Tells Me So" by Don Cornell and Lovin' Spoonful wrote "Do You Believe in Magic?".  Again, the thought here is that music saved us in the 50s but can no longer now that it has died.

Mclean wrote American Pie 10 years after the 50s were over.  Dylan writes "Like a Rolling Stone" and being the jester sings for Seeger and Baez, the king and queen.  Now that Elvis has gone to the army, Dylan has taken over.  The Kennedys are assassinated and Oswald is not convicted.  John Lennon becomes a political activist. 

Charles Manson claims the Beatles were telling him to commit those crimes on the White Album.  The Byrds rose with "Eight Miles High" but fell into rehab.  Dylan has a motorcycle accident.  The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's becomes the most influential album of all time and one that we just listen to without needing to dance.

Woodstock brought together the generation that was "lost in space", the 60s.  The Stones had to compete with the Beatles and sold their souls to the devil.  In 1969 during a free concert they had Hell's Angels for security.  All "hell" broke out when they killed a black man and began beating the concert goers.  The Stones were flown out in a helicopter leaving the mess they had created behind.

Janis Joplin dies of a heroin overdoes.  Now in the 70s, the 50s is a forgotten music.  The upbeat nature of the 50s music is gone as the 60s and 70s music is much darker and full of despair.  The country is losing it's faith in religion. Mclean writes his American Pie lyrics as an ode to the 50s.




A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance that I could make those people dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while
But February made me shiver with every paper I'd deliver
Bad news on the doorstep, I couldn't take one more step
I can't remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside the day the music died

So bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing this'll be the day that I die, this'll be the day that I die

Did you write the book of love and do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?
Now do you believe in rock and roll? Can music save your mortal soul?
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?
Well, I know that you're in love with him
'Cause I saw you dancing in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues
I was a lonely teenage bronc'n' buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died


Now, for ten years we've been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rolling stone
But that's not how it used to be
When the jester sang for the king and queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
And a voice that came from you and me
Oh, and while the king was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned
And while Lenin read a book on Marx
The quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died


Helter skelter in a summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast
Landed foul on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast
Now the half time air was sweet perfume
While sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance
Oh, but we never got the chance
'Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?

We started singing…

Oh, and there we were all in one place, a generation lost in space
With no time left to start again
So come on Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick 'cause fire is the devil's only friend
Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in hell
Could break that Satan's spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died

He was singing…

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went down to the sacred store
Where I'd heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn't play
And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died

And they were singing…

(*American Pie lyrics)

I hope my interpretation of the American Pie lyrics was helpful.  I'd love to know what you think.

Return to Top of American Pie Lyrics

Return to How to Write Song Lyrics

Return to How to Write a Song

Go Back to Songwriting Unlimited Home Page

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

#Songwriting Unlimited

"Without music, life would be a mistake"- Nietzsche

$20 OFF MasterWriter

Enter Your E-mail Address
Enter Your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Songwriting-Unlimited.