When thinking of Don McLean, it’s impossible not to think of American Pie. The American folksinger became a worldwide sensation with the song, which defined an entire era of music. Still to this day, a lot of the song’s lyrics are a mystery.
McLean is living a quit life these days. He’s been married twice, but over the last number of years, the singer has engaged in a new relationship.
His girlfriend Paris Dylan is 48(!) years younger than him! So how did they meet? And what does she look like?
Don McLean – early life
Don McLean was born on October 2, 1945 in New Rochelle, New York. By a very young age, the boy had developed a great interest in music, and loved listening to the radio, as well as his father’s records.
As a child, McLean had some health problems. His asthma forced him to miss plenty of school, and so music was his way forward in life.
In his teenage years, Don got his first guitar, and through his sister, he was gifted lessons at the House of Music in his hometown of New Rochelle.
Thanks to the fact that Don had started singing – along with hours spent at the swimming pool – meant that his health improved. He started to be able to control his breathing, which in turn led to his asthma improving.
The type of breath control that he developed can also be heard in the wonderful tune Crying, where he sings long parts of the songs without actually taking a breath.
At 15, Don McLean went through a huge tragedy when his father passed away. It took its toll on Don.
“I cried for two years,” he told The Guardian. “I blamed myself.”
His father had given him his early musical education, showing him all the best music and lending his son great influences. It became somewhat of a mission of McLean’s to honor his father by pursuing a career in music.
At the time his father passed away, another major event that would help to shape Don McLean’s life had already occurred.
‘The day the music died’
In 1959 – with Don McLean just 13 years of age – Buddy Holly passed away alongside rock n’ roll stars Ritchie Valens and J.p “the Big Bopper” Richardson when their plane crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa.
Buddy Holly was Don’s favorite musician, and when he read about the tragic accident in the newspaper, he felt it was the day the music died. You might just recognize that sentiment from the bridge of American Pie.
“The opening part of the song was born in one piece,” McLean explained. “I wrote it remembering how it was the day I saw the newspaper, and the article that said my favorite artist had been killed. That got me started.”
We’ll get back to how Don McLean actually wrote American Pie, but first, let’s take a look at how he got in that position in the first place.
At 16, he got his first studio session and was invited to join a group called Rooftop Singers. However, at that point, McLean already felt that he was more of a troubadour.
Instead of joining the band, he set out to study at Villanova University. After only four months, he dropped out, and instead worked at Harold Leventhal Management as an apprentice.
View this post on Instagram
For six years, Don McLean mastered the guitar and started performing at several venues in New York, as well as at the Newport Folk Festival and in Washington and Philadelphia.
Released his first album in 1970
He went on to play at the legendary Troubadour in Los Angeles, and even had a tour playing over 30 colleges on the east coast.
At the same time, he also earned his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Iona College in 1968, but decided to turn down several scholarships from Columbia Grad School.
Instead, he had decided that music was his passion in life, and he became a resident singer at Caffe Lena in New York City.
A year later, in 1969, Don McLean recorded his first album, Tapestry in California. The song And I Love You So became a minor hit, but huge commercial success didn’t follow.
Two years later, however, in 1971, the singer released his second album – and it changed his life forever.
On May 26, 1971, Don McLean recorded American Pie, which was also the title of the album. Other songs included on the album were the emotional song Vincent – about the life of the misinterpreted painter Vincent Van Gogh – as well as Till Tomorrow and Crossroads.
“I was conscious of the fact that I was trying to create a rock’n’roll dream sequence,” McLean explained the concept of American Pie.
“But it was way more than rock’n’roll. It was about an America that was coming apart at the seams.
What is ‘American Pie’ by Don McLean about?
“I was trying to create this American song, but not like This Land Is Your Land or America The Beautiful. I wanted to connect with the parts of America that mattered to me, starting with Buddy Holly. Buddy didn’t matter to anybody when I wrote this song, I have to tell you.”
The song American Pie is full of questions and mysterious lyrics. Still to this day, it’s unclear what it’s actually about.
Fans still spend hours figuring out the mystery, but that alone is probably one of the reasons as to why the song has been so widely popular. Sometimes, lyrics don’t have to mean one set thing, right? They might have a different meaning for each and every person listening – what matters is that the songs can drag out emotions we didn’t know we had.
While working on the song, McLean included characters, as well as different sections, turning it into a master piece.
“A while later, I wrote the chorus and came up with the title. It’s apple pie, parts of the pie. We’re always talking about the economic pie, and pie has sexual significance as well,” he explained.
“Then one day, in a blaze of glory, I just wrote the whole rest of the song, and I tied together musical imagery of unspecified meaning with this story about America.”
American Pie went on to live a life of its own, with Don McLean rising in the charts. The song reached No.1 spot on the US charts, and his instant stardom was certified.
Original handwritten lyrics sold for $1,2 million
Not only did American Pie take McLean to the next level regarding his music, but it also gave him a chance to show the world the rest of his less known songs.
The song’s popularity and impact on music history can never be contested. The original handwritten lyrics sold for $1.2 million in 2015. At the time, it became the third-highest ever price for an American literary manuscript.
“American Pie” has had its own history, its own biography, and each time it’s reflected on my own ability as a singer and songwriter. And it’s popularity has given me the opportunity to [showcase] my other songs,” Don McLean explained.
“So people got to know my songs like Crossroads, Winterwood, Castles in the Air, Wonderful Baby, Dreidel and If We Try. Of course, American Pie was far bigger than all of those songs, but they still know many of my other songs. So that was always a wonderful benefit [from the success of American Pie].”
McLean continued to write music, and released several album with great success. In the wake of the American Pie “madness,” he became a major concert attraction. For example, 85,000 people attended his concert in Hyde Park, London, in 1975.
Don McLean – personal life
Even though he doesn’t have the same strong voice as he did when he was younger, McLean would never change his songs in a way that would be more suitable for his voice.
“I try to treat every song with respect. I never just drone through it or act like I’m being dragged by the ear by the song,” he said. “Like I think Elvis did near the end of his life; he disrespect the hits that made him famous and then sing songs that he never should have sung.”
In the 2000s, Don McLean started to fade away with regards his live performances. Instead, he focused on other things, with his personal life being pretty tumultuous.