Don McLean, singer and songwriter, opens up about the deep yearning he has for American music as he begins a 50th anniversary tour.
New York-born Don McLean, the cultural power behind “American Pie,” Vincent (Starry, Starry Night), “And I Love You So,” and many more songs, told Fox News Digital in an intimate interview that he was “the right guy at the right moment” for “American Pie.”
This song reached No. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts more than 50 years after its debut on January 15, 1972. It is still a staple of American folk music . It has been featured in many films and other venues. McLean was a Grammy-award recipient, a Songwriter Hall of Fame member and a BBC Lifetime Achievement Award winner.
“American Pie” is also on the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. It was also named a top-5 song of 20th century music by the Recording Industry of America.
In a phone interview, McLean stated that he was faced with many choices when he was a young man and that following his passions for music and singing was the right decision.
To celebrate 50 years of “American Pie,” the singer-songwriter just launched a world tour. This tour will feature more than 30 stops in North America and 35 additional shows in Europe this fall.
Continue reading for highlights from his Fox News Digital interview. He discussed everything, including his music, lessons learned, the homeless in America, and why certain people are successful.
The staying power of ‘American Pie’
McLean said that he was young and was the right guy for the job. He also believes “American Pie” has such resonance today.
“I have many top-10 records, many successful albums [over time], but only one song is like that one.”
McLean added, “It was very specific, really to the very turbulent times that were happening in the United States.” It was the most violent and dangerous time in the 1970s and 1971s, he stated.
“Cities were aflame and the Vietnam War was ending. They [the government] had to end this after titanic struggle. It had been going for at least 15 years. Awful. It was awful. My song was perfect.”
The ‘oral tradition of folk songs’
Millions of people have memorized the lyrics to “American Pie”, which at more than eight minutes long is still the longest No. 1 song. It was the No. 1 song until last year when Taylor Swift took it.
McLean’s thoughts on “American Pie”
He said, “It’s kinda a folk song now. If there’s any definition for what a true folk song is.” “In the music world back 100 years ago or so — hundreds of years ago, in rural areas — there weren’t any tape recorders, TVs or radios or people who could write down things.
McLean said, “So someone would learn it from their grandmother and mother.” McLean said, “They would learn it and memorize it, then they would sing it somewhere else, and someone else would do the same thing, but maybe sing it differently.” In oral tradition, it goes on.
“And I believe that ‘American Pie” has entered that particular realm.”
Knowing that he did the right thing for me, I felt relieved.
What have McLean’s experiences with creating the iconic song and his work as a singer-songwriter taught him?
“What I have learned from this experience, including thousands of concerts experiences, stories and all the other things that I was involved in over the course my career, is that I did what was right with my life.”
McLean said, “I made the right choice when I decided at 15 that I wanted to quit everything and become a singer/musician, and it didn’t matter what happened.” That’s how I learned. It was the best thing that I did.”
McLean admits that it could have been very different.
He said, “I could have become homeless.” “I was involved in the 1960s after I graduated from college, and before that — there were many young people at that time living ‘in a van by the river’. I have slept in cars many times. It’s something I would do again and wouldn’t hesitate to do.
“I was a road man.” He said that he was a rambler. “I went around doing little shows, little nightclubs. In the middle, there were friends. I was a traveler. I drove a lot and rambled about. There were hundreds of musicians with banjos, guitars, and mandolins back then.
After all, “American Pie” was created and performed by one man.
Being ‘blessed in good health’ and returning to COVID times
McLean said that it was the “60s” when he wrote about his “rambling” days. “Then, I began to record and made my first CD, ‘Tapestry. Everything changed. Then, I found myself in the headliner position at nightclubs and concert halls. I also laid the foundation for the next album. It became an international success with two No. It was No. 1 on the charts. (That album was “American Pie.”
“And it would’ve had three No. “And it would have had three No.
McLean stated that he went “sleeping on the couch in the car to sleeping in Paris’ Georges Sanc Hotel… This is my story,” he said. It’s quite a dynamic. “Really, 99% of all the wonderful things that have happened in my life are amazing.”
He stated, “And I have been blessed to be in very good health. It’s a physical job that I do. “That’s why I want to get back on my road [in 2022].
He stated that the COVID epidemic has caused a “tiresome situation” for many. “I wanted to be able to work again, and I was able to lift my guitar, my bags, and perform on the road again.
“COVID stopped all things. It worked for a solid one year. He said that we are still “slowly recovering” from it, now in the early part of 2022.
A ‘wonderfully civilized’ America ‘back then
His career has seen him perform for thousands of people, and he’s been able to engage with so many over the years. What observations would he have about the country?
McLean stated, “The America of today is not the America that I started in.” “And it is not the America I was in before my start out… It’s not the America I grew up in. The America I grew up in in the 1950s, when I was a young boy or teenager — that’s what I knew and the values I believed in.”
He pointed out that “many people today make it sound as if the America of 1950s was some terrible White racist country. It’s disgusting how [some] people have described our country.” There was great civility back then; trust was high; doors were wide open; we had number-one colleges around the globe; we were number one.
He said, “We won’t send a dumb ‘Dream Team with professional athletes to the Olympics. The Olympics were actually the Olympics. The Olympics didn’t require multi-million dollar contracts for men. This is gone.”
McLean stated that he believes America is corrupt today, and a country that is very divided.
Concerns about America’s homeless
He said, “I have a degree as a finance and economics expert.” “It was a great school, Iona College in New Rochelle (New York), which produces a lot business professionals. All of this stayed with me throughout the years.”
“When you have a $2.7 trillion deficit and then spend $7 trillion to $8 trillion in one or two more years, and you’re looking into spending more in this infrastructure bill — a trillion here, trillion elsewhere, that’s how people tend talk about it — you can’t have an economic system with that kind of funny money. That is something that I am very concerned about.
He said that America has a lot of homeless people. They are everywhere. And I see the stimulus money going out. And I haven’t heard President Biden or anyone else talk about the homeless in America and how they’re going to help. This concerns me.”
What happens to these people when they stop receiving stimulus checks? They have families, children — what happens? McLean stated that McLean cares deeply about the situation.
“And somebody has to get out ahead, or it will explode.”
He also asked the following question: “What is the person with very limited money going to do when they can’t fill their car with gas?”
He said, “This is what my thoughts are about.” “This is what worries my heart.”
He also stated that he does not lecture anyone on stage during his concerts or shows. He stated that he understands people come out to see him perform — to have fun and enjoy the music.
“I may tell a story but I usually try to remind people that happiness is important and not something they should do. The left-wing has made it a point to make Americans ashamed of their past. To make Americans ashamed of their country.”
McLean stated, “Yet, this is all part in a scheme to them get more power.” “That’s it.”
He said that this whole “defund police” thing was a scam. “Sure, up to the point your house is broken into, and you want police to come to the house.” What then?
The Don McLean Foundation, and why it was started by him
He said that everything he had, including all my income from the world, would go to his foundation, a 501c3 non-profit he founded years ago.
He stated that his foundation would receive all of his worldly income, at the end of his life and before. It’s still in operation today and it has been since the 1980s.
He said that the Don McLean Foundation supports soup kitchens, homeless shelters and the Portland, Maine Salvation Army as well as other worthy recipients across the country.
He stated that his Camden, Maine home will be the “home of the foundation” and will host events during the summer to raise funds for worthy causes.
His career longevity and the secrets to success
McLean also shared some observations with Fox News Digital regarding his travels, career and overall longevity.
“I am a career rambler. This is what I have done since I was 16-17 years old. It is impossible to become degenerate. You can’t fall into the worlds of drugs and alcohol. You must maintain your discipline. To some extent, you must be stoic. I take very little when I travel… I have my own guitar, just as I did in the past.
McLean said, “And I am always grateful to have work.”
He stated that he enjoyed the thrill of adventure, and he still does.
He also said that successful people in life “have to make it happen.” They must set goals and keep them in mind.
People who are successful don’t wait for people to knock at their doors or for things to happen.
McLean insists that McLean is wrong — “that’s how it happens.” You set goals and you achieve them — I still do that today. I don’t waste my time. I get things done. I make things. And I get things done.”