"American Pie" as written by and Don Mclean....
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
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
So

[Chorus]
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin' 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?
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 dancin' in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues

I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died
I started singin'

[Chorus]
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

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
We were singin'

[Chorus]
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
And singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

Helter skelter in a summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast

It 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 singin'

[Chorus]
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
And singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

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 singin'

[Chorus]
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

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

[Chorus]
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

They were singing
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin' this'll be the day that I die


Lyrics submitted by Demau Senae

"American Pie" as written by Don Mclean

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

American Pie song meanings
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335 Comments

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  • +9
    General Comment"Day the Music Died" = Plane crash (buddy holley, etc.)

    "Jester" = Bob Dylan

    "Jester on the sidelines in a cast"= Bob Dylan appears in the "cast of characters" on the Sgt. Pepper album on the side.

    "King" = Elvis

    "Quartet" = Beatles

    "The Byrds" = The Byrds. Eight miles high was one of their songs.

    "Sweet Perfume" = smell of marajuana

    "Marching band refused to yield" - Beatles were top of the charts thru '60's

    "Devil" - Mick Jagger

    "Girl who sang the blues" = Janis Joplin

    "Father, Son & The Holy Ghost" = John Kennedy, Robt. Kennedy & Martin Luther King.
    Ferthukoon April 10, 2002   Link
  • +6
    General CommentThis song was about the death of Buddy Holly in a plane crash. He died in february, hence the shivering with the delivery of 'bad news on the doorstep'. The joker is supposed to be Bob Dylan I think, and the King is Elvis Priestly. (at least I think that, but i could just be being obvious). I think the woman who turns away is supposed to be Janis Joplin, not sure about that though. The song is basically about how music 'died' on the day that buddy holly was killed, and since then everything else can't compare.

    Darren...
    darren_kifon February 26, 2002   Link
  • +6
    Song Meaningok, here we go:

    A long time ago, im guessing when he was younger, the music of buddy holly and others was very influential to him. This music led him to want to be a musician and "make those people dance" and make the world happy with his music. But then, the Valens/Bopper/Holly plane crashed, hence the "bad news on the doorstep." he had to have been somewhat younger though "i cant remember if i cried when i read about his widowed bride." refers to Ritchie Valens, as he was to be married to Donna (i think) he then aptly named that day of the crash "the day the music died." the chorus sums up to their death and their loss of wanting to live "the american dream" he had wanted to be famous along with the bopper, his biggest influence, hence, "drove my chevy to the levy but the levy was dry" is a metaphor for making it big, yet his biggest influence was not there to see it. he may be refering to the three in the last part of the chorus, but i dont know for sure

    the second verse i never really got into. but my interpretation is: a girlfriend (maybe) left him for someone else at their prom. he had an idea that he was probably not gonna become famous because of "the day the music died"

    the third verse talks about the different artist that came up ten years after the plane crash. "moss grows fat on a rolling stone" means the Rolling Stones had become famous and accumulated "moss"(cash). Now the Jester to me could possibly be Bob Dylan, Elvis had to be the King and the Queen may be his wife. the "voice that came from you and me" in my mind relates to Bob Dylan because of his popular songs. plus, his songs were mellow and relaxing and to me seemed to relate to normal people. Now, it seems that "while the king was looking down, the jester stole his thorny crown" means Bob Dylan became more famous than Elvis. John Lennon had gotten into Communism and the beatles sang songs about "Helter Skelter" and others that MAY HAVE been about death or dying.

    "Helter Skelter in a summer swelter" refers to the actual Tate/LaBianca murders. While that was going on, the Byrds became popular. it refers to their song "eight miles high". "it" could refer to anything, but my view is the Pop Charts. (i could be wrong so please dont hound me). The 'players' being the Beatles trying to come back on top after Bob Dylan had the motorcycle wreck. The 'halftime air' meant during the middle of the 'hippie' ages marijuana was frequently used by alot of people. the 'sergeants' meaning the Beatles album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club". and we all wanted to love the beatles music, yet there was other bands trying to make a name for themselves.

    "Lost in Space" was a hit tv show, but he could be refering to the advancement in technology throughout the years. now, i agree with some on his dislike for the Stones, so i will go ahead and say he refers to the song "Jumping Jack Flash" by the Stones. that part of the verse was solely intended to show his dislike of the Rolling Stones, implying Mick Jagger was "the devil's only friend". he implies in the next few lines about being enraged by a concert (maybe a Stones concert?) and i believe he talks about the Son of Sam and riots and whatnot.

    The girl who sang the blues is Janis Joplin. He was hoping she could help bring happiness, "but she just smiled and turned away". The "Sacred Store" refers to a place he would go when he was younger to hear Buddy Holly's music. when he went back all these years later it had become something else. he may be refering to the plane crash again, due to his admiration for the three that died, i dont know, but i DO know that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is not JFK and Rob K. they were brothers, not Father and son. I do believe its Father=Bopper, Son=Valens, and Holy Ghost=Holly. "they caught that last train for the coast the day the music died" means they caught the ride to heaven.

    this is a very beautiful song. i may be wrong in some parts, but i did no research and took this meaning straght out of my heart. if i am wrong in any part please feel free to correct me.
    JoeCruzTKOon June 19, 2010   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationFirst off, this song never ever gets old, and it never will.

    Secondly, on the whole father son & holy ghost thing, I think it was a point in life where all seemed so a mess, so wrong in the world, that people thought god was dead. They felt like he abandon them.

    I don't belive in god, but I think it's bueautful that so many do. It's nice to feel there's someone looking out for you. I hope he's watchin me if he's real. I really hope so.
    AmericanPieSlice4173on February 13, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think it's about many things but one thing stands out that people overlook. It seems to be about rape or the loss of someones innocence by having something stolen. I think it is about the plane crash, but it also reflects the doomsday feel people had back then about nukes falling. But there is a lot of hints in there about something bad that he witnessed or perhaps even happened to him. I used to work & volunteer for a local PBS station and he was a special guest. He came in at night wearing sunglasses but written on his face was a look of hidden sorrow. I've been through horrible stuff myself in life so once you've been touched so deeply by something disturbing it's written all over you. I may be reading into his song and my observations of him, I may be projecting my own thoughts. But even if the "rape" or "taking" in this song was metaphorical it seems that his perception of his beloved country and/or world had been seriously altered at one point before this song. By tapping into pop culture at the time he could resonate with the audience to convey the sadness, anger, and dismay in his heart. I sort of did the same thing once as a child without realizing it. It was after my fathers suicide and I played the part of the Kookoo Bird in Hansel & Gretal. I instinctively felt that if I sang the part sadly and walked slower across the stage I could use the part to vibrate with the audience and convey my pain. I was greeted by my teacher as I exited the stage. I thought he was going to be made that I altered my performance. He had a perplexed expression on his face and simply said "Wow.. that was good". Later I found out that I had made several people in the audience cry. Anyway, long story short, too late... I believe that Don was tapping into popular imagery of the time to bridge the gap between what was in his deepest feelings and that of his listeners. Something tells me that the song is more than about dead celebrities and fall out shelters. I'm not saying it's NOT about those things as well but just something tells me that there is a hidden or secret meaning to this song, or at least something not so obvious.
    DavidWolfon May 05, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe entire song is a tribute to Buddy Holly and a commentary on how rock and roll music changed in the years since his death. McLean is lamenting the lack of "danceable" good time party music in rock and roll and (in part) attributing that lack to the absence of Buddy Holly et. al.
    (Verse 1)
    A long, long time ago...
    "American Pie" reached #1 in the U.S. in 1972; the album containing it was released in 1971. Buddy Holly died in 1959.
    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.
    One of early rock and roll's functions was to provide dance music for various social events. McLean recalls his desire to become a musician playing that sort of music.
    But February made me shiver,
    Buddy Holly died on February 3, 1959 in a plane crash in Iowa during a snowstorm.
    With every paper I'd deliver,
    Don McLean's only job before becoming a full-time singer-songwriter was being a paperboy.
    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
    Holly's recent bride was pregnant when the crash took place; she had a miscarriage shortly afterward.
    But something touched me deep inside, The day the music died.
    The same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly also took the lives of Richie Valens ("La Bamba") and The Big Bopper ("Chantilly Lace"). Since all three were so prominent at the time, February 3, 1959 became known as "The Day The Music Died".
    So...
    (Refrain) Bye bye Miss American Pie,
    Don McLean dated a Miss America candidate during the pageant.
    Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry Them good ol' boys were drinkin whiskey and rye Singing "This'll be the day that I die, This'll be the day that I die."
    One of Holly's hits was "That'll be the Day"; the chorus contains the line "That'll be the day that I die".
    (Verse 2)
    Did you write the book of love,
    "The Book of Love" by the Monotones was a hit in 1958.
    And do you have faith in God above, If the Bible tells you so?
    There's also an old Sunday School song which goes: "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so"
    Now do you believe in rock 'n roll?
    The Lovin' Spoonful had a hit in 1965 with John Sebastian's "Do you Believe in Magic?". The song has the lines: "Do you believe in magic" and "It's like trying to tell a stranger 'bout rock and roll."
    Can music save your mortal soul? And can you teach me how to dance real slow?
    Dancing slow was an important part of early rock and roll dance events -- but declined in importance through the 60's as things like psychedelia and the 10-minute guitar solo gained prominence.
    Well I know you're in love with him 'Cause I saw you dancing in the gym
    Back then, dancing was an expression of love, and carried a connotation of committment. Dance partners were not so readily exchanged as they would be later.
    You both kicked off your shoes
    A reference to the beloved "sock hop". (Street shoes tear up wooden basketball floors, so dancers had to take off their shoes.)
    Man, I dig those rhythm 'n' blues
    Some history. Before the popularity of rock and roll, music, like much else in the U. S., was highly segregated. The popular music of black performers for largely black audiences was called, first, "race music," later rhythm and blues. In the early 50s, as they were exposed to it through radio personalities such as Allan Freed, white teenagers began listening, too. Starting around 1954, a number of songs from the rhythm and blues charts began appearing on the overall popular charts as well, but usually in cover versions by established white artists, (e. g. "Shake Rattle and Roll", Joe Turner, covered by Bill Haley; "Sh-Boom", the Chords, covered by the Crew-Cuts; "Sincerely", the Moonglows, covered by the Mc Guire Sisters; Tweedle Dee, LaVerne Baker, covered by Georgia Gibbs). By 1955, some of the rhythm and blues artists, like Fats Domino and Little Richard were able to get records on the overall pop charts. In 1956 Sun records added elements of country and western to produce the kind of rock and roll tradition that produced Buddy Holly.
    I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
    "A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation)", was a hit for Marty Robbins in 1957. The pickup truck has endured as a symbol of sexual independence and potency, especially in a Texas context.
    But I knew that I was out of luck The day the music died I started singing...
    Refrain
    (Verse 3)
    Now for ten years we've been on our own
    McLean was writing this song in the late 60's, about ten years after the crash.
    And moss grows fat on a rolling stone
    Rolling Stone Magazine
    But that's not how it used to be When the jester sang for the King and Queen
    The jester is Bob Dylan, as will become clear later. Elvis Presley is the king, which seems pretty obvious. The queen COULD be either Connie Francis, Little Richard, or someone else.
    In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
    In the movie "Rebel Without a Cause", James Dean has a red windbreaker that holds symbolic meaning throughout the film. In one particularly intense scene, Dean lends his coat to a guy who is shot and killed; Dean's father arrives, sees the coat on the dead man, thinks it's Dean, and loses it. On the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Dylan is wearing just such as red windbreaker, and is posed in a street scene similar to one shown in a well-known picture of James Dean.
    And a voice that came from you and me
    Bob Dylan's roots are in American folk music, with people like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. Folk music is by definition the music of the masses, hence the "...came from you and me".
    Oh, and while the King was looking down The jester stole his thorny crown
    A reference to Elvis's decline and Dylan's ascendance. (i.e. Presley is looking down from a height as Dylan takes his place.) The thorny crown a reference to the price of fame. Dylan has said that he wanted to be as famous as Elvis, one of his early idols.
    The courtroom was adjourned, No verdict was returned.
    The trial of the Chicago Seven.
    And while Lennon read a book on Marx,
    Literally, John Lennon reading about Karl Marx; figuratively, the introduction of radical politics into the music of the Beatles. The "Marx-Lennon" wordplay has also been used by others, most notably the Firesign Theatre on the cover of their album How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All?
    The quartet practiced in the park
    The Beatles.
    And we sang dirges in the dark
    A reference to some of the new "art rock" groups which played long pieces not meant for dancing OR a reference to The Door's song "Light My Fire" which said "... a funeral pyer..." in one line.
    The day the music died. We were singing...
    Refrain
    (Verse 4)
    Helter Skelter in a summer swelter
    "Helter Skelter" is a Beatles song which appears on the White album. Charles Manson, claiming to have been "inspired" by the song (through which he thought God and/or the devil were taking to him) led his followers in the Tate-LaBianca murders. "Summer swelter" a reference to the "long hot summer" of Watts.
    The birds flew off with the fallout shelter Eight miles high and falling fast
    The Byrd's "Eight Miles High" was on their late 1966 release "Fifth Dimension." It was one of the first records to be widely banned because of supposedly drug-oriented lyrics.
    It landed foul on the grass
    One of the Byrds was busted for possesion of marijuana.
    The players tried for a forward pass
    Obviously a football metaphor about the Rolling Stones, i.e. they were waiting for an opening which really didn't happen until the Beatles broke up.
    With the jester on the sidelines in a cast
    On July 29, 1966, Dylan crashed his Triumph motorcycle while riding near his home in Woodstock, New York. He spent nine months in seclusion while recuperating from the accident.
    Now the halftime air was sweet perfume
    This line and the next few refer to the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The "sweet perfume" is tear gas.
    While sergeants played a marching tune
    The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" music in general as "marching" because it's not music for dancing. But music with a message to which we march.
    We all got up to dance Oh, but we never got the chance
    The Beatles' 1966 Candlestick Park concert only lasted 35 minutes and there wasn't any music to dance to OR due to the break-up of The Beatles.
    'Cause the players tried to take the field, The marching band refused to yield.
    A reference to the dominance of the Beatles on the rock and roll scene. For instance, the Beach Boys released "Pet Sounds" in 1966 -- an album which featured some of the same sort of studio and electronic experimentation as "Sgt. Pepper" (1967) -- but the album sold poorly. It's a comment about how the dominance of the Beatles in the rock world led to more "pop art" music, leading in turn to a dearth of traditional rock and roll.
    Do you recall what was revealed, The day the music died? We started singing
    Refrain
    (Verse 5)
    And there we were all in one place
    Woodstock.
    A generation lost in space
    A reference to the "famous" (and horrible) 60s TV "Lost In Space."
    With no time left to start again
    The "lost generation" spent too much time being stoned, and had wasted their lives.
    So come on Jack be nimble Jack be quick
    A reference to Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones; "Jumpin' Jack Flash" was released in May, 1968.
    Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
    The Stones' Candlestick park concert.
    'Cause fire is the devil's only friend
    The Stones song "Sympathy for the Devil."
    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
    While playing a concert at the Altamont Speedway in 1969, the Stones appointed members of the Hell's Angels to work security. In the darkness near the front of the stage, a young man named Meredith Hunter was beaten and stabbed to death -- by the Angels. Public outcry that the song "Sympathy for the Devil" had somehow incited the violence caused the Stones to drop the song from their show for the next six years.
    And as the flames climbed high into the night To light the sacrificial rite
    About Altamont, and in particular Mick Jagger's prancing and posing while it was happening. The sacrifice is Meredith Hunter, and the bonfires around the area provide the flames.
    I saw satan laughing with delight
    Satan would be Jagger.
    The day the music died He was singing...
    Refrain
    (Verse 6)
    I met a girl who sang the blues
    Janis Joplin.
    And I asked her for some happy news But she just smiled and turned away
    Janis died of an accidental heroin overdose on October 4, 1970.
    I went down to the sacred store Where I'd heard the music years before
    The "sacred store" was Bill Graham's Fillmore West, one of the great rock and roll venues of all time.
    But the man there said the music wouldn't play
    Nobody is interested in hearing Buddy Holly et.al.'s music.
    And in the streets the children screamed
    "Flower children" being beaten by police and National Guard troops; in particular, perhaps, the People's Park riots in Berkeley in 1969 and 1970.
    The lovers cried and the poets dreamed
    The trend towards psychedelic music in the 60's.
    But not a word was spoken, The church bells all were broken
    The broken bells are the dead musicians: neither can produce any more music.
    And the three men I admire most The Father Son and Holy Ghost
    Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Richie Valens.
    They caught the last train for the coast
    A way of saying that they had left the scene (or died -- "went west" as a synonym for dying).
    The day the music died And they were singing...
    Refrain (2x)



    tlspatrioton September 09, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General Commentit talks about the time when many music legends lives ended and the song is more like a funeral song giving its respects to the music culture back then and saying it will never be the same.
    limpsparkle_77on February 21, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthe plane that buddy holly and the others died on was definitly not called "The American Pie", it was a nameless rental plane holly got in Iowa bound for N.D. after one of their gigs. and while the song does rely heavily on allusions to holly's death, i feel that it is simply a history of rock music from McLean's perspective. he liked sock hops, rhythm and blues and buddy holly's music, and didn`t like the stones (mentioned more than once), dylan, the beatles (also mentioned several times), the byrds ('eight miles high' is a byrds song), along with several other bands he has debatably mentioned in an ambiguous fashion.
    ramtharon March 30, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthe plane was NEVER named "american pie." big bopper, valens, etc. were just huge stars in america, and thus constituted a big part of the american "pie."
    emmychloeon April 27, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Commentmusic is poetry. the beauty of poetry is it has a different meaning for everyone and no interpretation is wrong. it is there to get your mind working and evoke emotions. music helps you relate something to your feelings and emotions. Don McClean knows this that is why he doesn't tell what the lyrics mean because his meaning only relates to himself. make your own meaning that is the only correct one.
    mulnixon May 01, 2002   Link

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