Harmonize: Review of American Pie, By Don Mclean

 I look out my window and see the morning sun peeking through the trees. Their bright autumn colors shine against a perfectly blue sky. The air is crisp, and the birds are chirping as they enjoy their favorite time of day. The fresh dew on the grass sparkles in the morning glow. I think about how this view perfectly describes Don Mclean’s album American Pie.

                         American Pie was released in 1971. It was dedicated to Mclean’s favorite performer, Buddy Holly. It is a blend of folk and folk rock music. Mclean refrains from commenting on the meaning of his albums or songs, but he was going through a divorce at the time his album was being created. I think it is safe to say this may have had an impact on the album’s somber tone. This can be highlighted in songs such as “Empty Chairs” and “The Grave.”

   The album is a masterpiece. He paints a portrait with his music. In many instances he references nature in order to describe his emotions or situations happening in his life. It is gorgeous. I recommend listening to it on a drive in the country, or during a time you are trying to decompress. There are some songs such as “Everybody Loves Me,Baby” that interrupt the flow of the rest of the album. However, it is still overall relaxing. Don McLean only uses his guitar and voice in most songs. The contrast between the simplicity of the music and the complexity of the songs is genius. 

Taste Test:(this was really hard)

 This is a list of songs I would recommend if you do not wish to listen to the whole album

  1. “Vincent”- “Vincent” discusses the impact of Vincent van Gogh’s art.. Mclean deeply analyzes the art, trying to connect van Gogh feelings with his paintings. He talks of the pain van Gogh suffered through, and how this was expressed.     


  1. “Till Tomorrow”-I believe “Till Tomorrow” is about the singer’s divorce from his wife. Lines such as “High above the heavens a rainbow paints the sky. White doves sing their songs of love, I watch them as they fly.” This song is basically a poem put to music. I love it.



  1. “Empty Chairs”- “Empty Chairs” is another song about divorce. It discusses how Mclean never believed his wife would leave him until she did. He describes how empty the house feels in the line “Empty rooms that echo as I climb the stairs, and empty clothes that drape and fall on empty chairs.” It is sad, but lovely.   



  1. “The Grave”-”The Grave” is haunting. It discusses a man who goes to fight for the war. He soon becomes terrified as he stands around the bodies of his fellow men who have been killed. He becomes hysterical because he does not want to die. The simple ending “The earth is my grave” is deep. It is like listening to a well written story, true to its core. My favorite line is “And the rain fell like pearls on the leaves of the flowers.” A gorgeous description in the midst of something as horrifying as war.  



  1. Extra recommendation- “American Pie”- “American Pie” is a classic. It is catchy, and is about the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper.