MORE TO THE MAN THAN A SLICE OF PIE
There are very few songs that virtually everyone is familiar with, but "American Pie" and its tale of "the day the music died" is surely one of them. However, that 1972 ultra-hit is hardly the only thing Don McLean ever recorded, and in fact, he remains one of only a handful of musicians to emerge from the golden era of singer-songwriters that's still plying his trade with the same seriousness and high level craftsmanship as the work that brought him to notoriety in the first place. There's a sense of dinged-up wonder to McLean's songs, a wistful-but-still standing philosophical feel that's bent and twisted by life's inescapable vicissitudes. Like many of his peers, often peace and the pursuit of it is prominent in his work but McLean injects a sense of reality that often escapes folkies, not to mention a jazz-tinged musicality that's a good ways from Greenwich Village standard. Today is McLean's 65th birthday and we offer this assortment of choice moments in salute. Spare ol' Don a thought or two as you look out on the starry, starry night this evening. And do yourself a favor and catch him with his crack band of Nashville players if he makes a rare concert appearance near you. The man continues to deliver something truly special in front of a live audience. (Dennis Cook)
We begin with a lovely number off McLean's 1970 debut Tapestry.
Here's the title cut from McLean's most recent album, Addicted To Black (released this past April), followed by his second most famous single "Vincent."
Next, a clip from the early 80s taken from an Irish TV programme called Siamsa Cois Laoi (Music Beside the Lee), where McLean updates a classic Irish folk tune and offers one of his own.
He can be quite the swinging romantic when he puts his mind to it.
The American West and cowboy culture are threads that run through his catalog, including 2003's excellent The Western Album, where he tapped into classic public domain pieces alongside songs by Gene Autry & Woody Guthrie. Here's an earlier original crack at this subject matter.
Another thoughtful, ambitious piece performed in Israel in 1979.
For all his distance from the Greenwich Village scene, McLean penned some songs that fit in nicely with the societal commentary that made Joan Baez and young Bob Dylan so famous.
McLean offers some fine thoughts on how music endures before his rumination on the original Superman and the downsides of wearing that cape.
No celebration of McLean would be complete without this one. We end here and raise our glass to one of the finest American singer-songwriters ever. A class act all the way.