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Don McLean American Pie Lyrics

Last updated: 09/26/2012 02:12:03 PM

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
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
...

So bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing 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?
Now 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 dancing 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 singing

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing 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 singing

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing 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
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 singing

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing 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
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 singing

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing 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 Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
And they were singing

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

Thanks to Mrnicelupe for submitting American Pie Lyrics.



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American Pie as an anti-war anthem | Reviewer: Daniel | 9/26/12

Regarding the refrain, I have an alternate explanation to those normally expressed.

The entire song is about America's loss of innocence. While most of the particular lyrics reference music, it could be that the real underlying loss of innocence concerns the Vietnam war, which was becoming increasingly divisive and serious at the time of Holley's death. And, if you consider the musical references in light of the war, then the song is nothing short of brilliant social commentary. This song might explain how we got to our current point where we accept war with too little question.

"Refrain"

So bye-bye, Miss American Pie

As others have said... that the wholesome part of American society, namely "apple pie and mother" is gone.

Drove my Chevy to the levee

Driving a Chevy could refer to the "All American" transportation to Vietnam courtesy of the U.S. Government. The levee could refer to the idea that the Vietnam war was fought to "hold back the flood" of Communism, an idea heavily promoted at the time by many in the Government. From Wikapedia, "The U.S. government viewed involvement in the war as a way to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam as part of their wider strategy of containment." The levee is an apt metaphor for this policy.

But the levee was dry

As many idealistic and partriotic US soldiers arrived in Vietnam, they soon learned that the situation was more complex and morally ambiguous than promised. The war, sooner or later, became dirty and pointless to them. The war was at heart a civil war, escalated due to international concerns and tensions. It has been speculated by some that the real reason for the war was to firmly establish the "military-industrial complex" that President Eisenhower warned about. At any rate, America came to disbelieve that claim that the "flood of Communism" was being contained by the war, culminating in America's retreat and North Vietnam's victory, which over time has not proven to have "opened the floodgates" for the unrestrained spread of Communism. Some even now insist that the war was lost because it was not supported or "built" strongly enough. But most now concede that the threat of the spread of Communism was exaggerated to say the least. In other words, the "levee was dry", because the "flood" did not exist.

And them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye

"Good old boys" may refer to America's leading politicians, who were assumed by many to be well-intentioned, truthful and well informed. Or it could refer to the older conservative Americans that believed the offered myth of the threat of Communism. Or it could refer to the young men of the nation that believed the politicians and the older generation, and went to war in their place and for their country. The lyrics resemble the phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid" as a reference to brain washing vis-a-vis the Jim Jones mass murder tragedy in Guyana. But instead of Kool-Aid, the American public was drinking "Whiskey And Rye", which poetically refers to the acronym - "WAR". War is considered by most people to be a strong, intoxicating, and disorienting drink which when taken in excess leaves a hangover. The passionate and intoxicating protests of the war in the 60's stand in stark contrast to its casual acceptance of the 50's. And we are still dealing with the hangover.

Singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

This is the obvious lament of the soldiers in Vietnam, who lived with the ever present threat of death. Has anything changed, or will it ever?

rock is not evil | Reviewer: marty | 10/2/10

You make many good points and some make sense. How can you argue the point about "Helter Skelter?" Loss of American taste, could be about rock. But to say rock is evil is ridiculous. Yes, you can dance to many many rock songs, such as "Love Hurt" by Nazareth, and "Every Rose Has its Thorn."

The mojority of rock, even hard rock is not evil. "Living Thing." by ELO is an anti-abortian song. "do you know what you're doin'" by Terry Bush is an anti drug song. And the byrds had a hit song "turn, turn, turn." the lyrics are from the book eccleseastes, from the bible.

There is no reference to fire in the lyrics jumpin jack flash.

Not all dicussion to morality in the 60s was gone. Remember the peace signs?

Religion gone, replaced by rock? There was a very popular rock song "spirit in the sky."

Just because you listen to particular style of music, doesn't mean you live by the lyrics. I love god. I also love the group Black Sabbath. I love the beat, the sound of the music. I just know when I hear a song I either like it or don't.

What? | Reviewer: Don | 3/22/10

Come on, some of this is just silly.
Buddy died in 1959, the Korean was was over a few years."Sacred store", a record shop. "Chevy to the levee" from an early R'R song.
"Helter Skelter" Beatles. Jester-Dylan others like the Byrds, Joplin. Drug culture of rock.
It's about Buddy mainly. "That'll be the Day". From John Wayne movie Buddy loved, also 1959- "The Searchers". On and on, you don't know much about early R'R dude.
Whiskey AND Rye.

Rye, NY | Reviewer: Anonymous | 2/17/10

The word 'Rye' in the line "And them good old boys were drinking whiskey in Rye," refers to the town Rye in Westchester County, NY. Don McLean is from New Rochelle, NY, which is a less affluent town in Westchester County. Referring to good ol' boys drinking whiskey in Rye would only make sense considering the context of McLean's background.

Buddy Holly | Reviewer: William | 1/26/09

GB has a nice interpretation, I think it's fair to say that Don McLean is an extremely talented musician.

I do have to say though that carrying with the comparison to Buddy Holly's death is correct but in a more literal sense. Although 'American Pie' could symbolise America it was also the name of Buddy Hollys plane and that he is reminiscing about when he would go to 'the levee' and the patrons of the bar would be singing old Buddy Holly songs 'this will be the day that i die'.

My interpretation of American Pie lyrics | Reviewer: GB | 9/30/08

My interpretation of American Pie is that Don Mclean is of the opinion that after the death of Buddy Holly, rock music has played a major role in the corruption of our society. The history of rock music as a common interpretation of the song is correct only to the point that it serves as a backdrop for Mclean’s editorializing that the beginning of the end of morality in this country was the beginning of more strident forms of rock music. (That Mr. Mclean mourns the passing of danceable music is an insult to his intelligence.)

I personally do not participate much in organized religious activities, and I don’t consider myself particularly prudish, but I am of the opinion that rock music has cultivated a subculture nearly devoid of moral content. Insofar that it has spawned increased drug use and a breakdown of the family, I do in fact buy into the interpretation which I outline below.

Note: I am not knowledgable enough about rock music to identify every reference to a rock group or song contained in American Pie, but I believe that below I successfully prove my point, as discussed above.


A long long time ago
I can still remember how that music used to make me smile

Music used to be wholesome. Smiling is good and simple.

And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while.

He knew he wanted to be a music010012
3021 o ;//////1//////////11//../
+62+ 6+99;9;8//;;;//*.,../
,./ .an from when he was young.

But February made me shiver
With every paper I'd deliver

The events of Buddy Holly’s death occurred when Mclean was a teenager

Bad news on the doorstep

The Korean War….

I couldn't take one more step

…..affected Don Mclean deeply. He is a thoughtful and moral person.

I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride

Obviously Buddy Holly based on later references.

But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

He understood on a subconscious level (likely as a dramatic point more so than historical fact) at the time that something profound had changed in American culture - that this was a significant event.


{Refrain}
So bye-bye, Miss American Pie

He is saying that the wholesome part of American society, namely “apple pie and mother” is gone forever.

Drove my chevy to the levee

Chevy is the all American car. Levees are near water and water is the universal literary symbol of purity.

But the levee was dry

The purity in America is gone.

And them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye

Good old boys are the essence of America

Singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die
hi
The obvious reference to Buddy Holly

Did you write the Book of Love
And do you have faith in God above

Speaking to the youth of America, “Do you believe in God?”

If the Bible tells you so

Mock sarcasm, implying that of course they don’t.

Do you believe in rock 'n roll

The youth of America have devoted too much of their lives to rock music, which, as will be shown below, is evil.

Can music save your mortal soul

Music doesn’t offer any substantive guidance to how to run one’s life. Religion serves that purpose.

And can you teach me how to dance real slow

Mclean's preference is to more pleasant music than hard rock

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

- not rock music
This stanza may mean more, but it hearkens to simpler days before rock music introduced decadence to our youth.

I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck

Don Mclean was a typical, American teenager

But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died

Again, Mclean sensed a sad future for America

I s rted singin'
{Refrain}

Now for ten years we've been on our own

Ten years after the death of Holly

And moss grows fat on a rollin' 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 Lennon read a book of Marx
The quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark

This may in fact be a reference to Kennedy

The day the music died

We were singing
{Refrain}

Helter Skelter in a summer swelter

Reference to Charles Manson who put his faith in rock music, and you know how that went

The Byrds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast
It landed foul out on the grass

Reference to the Byrd member who was arrested for drug possession

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 the Sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance
Oh, but we never got the chance

You can’t really dance to rock music (?)

'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 singing
{Refrain}

Oh, and there we were all in one place
A generation Lost in Space

A reference to the sixties era, particularly the loss of American taste

With no time left to start again
So come on, Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick

Reference to the Rolling Stones

'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

These are the true feelings of Don Mclean - a sense of outrage at the evil and immorality of the age of rock music

No angel born in hell
Could break that Satan's spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrifical rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight

Obvious reference to the murder of a fan by the Hell’s Angels acting as body guards for the Rolling Stones

The day the music died

This clearly shows that Don Mclean believes that the decline in our culture began after the time of Buddy Holly

He was singing
{Refrain}

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away

Janis Joplin dying of a drug overdose

I went down to the sacred store

Church

Where I'd heard the music years before

He had a faith in religion when he was young

But the man there said the music woudn't play

There is no more religion in our lives (a common attitude 1969)

And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed

Life basically goes on

But not a word was spoken

All discussion of morality is gone

The church bells all were broken

Religion as an institution was in decline in 1969

And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost

Here Don Mclean professes his inner Catholic spiritualism and faith

They caught the last train for the coast

The spirit of religion is gone from America, displaced by rock music.

The day the music died

After Buddy Holly’s death

And they were singing
{Refrain}

They were singing bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry
Them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin' this'll be the day that I die

Let me know what you think

american pie | Reviewer: orangeeee | 2/3/08

this song is amazing!!! its so fun to jam to when u r spazing out!!! BYE BYE MISS AMERICAN PIE!! DROVE MY CHEVY TO THE LEVEE, BUT THE LEVEE WAS DRY!!! im sorta spazing out right now!!! but this song is AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

To the reviewer tom... | Reviewer: James | 12/14/07

I think the reason Don felt the music died was because during this time so many great music artists were using/abusing drugs, therefore, he probably thought they were wasting their talent for no reason. All in all, this is a beautiful song, which i listen to at least 10 times during the day.

Peer Review | Reviewer: tom | 12/2/07

Don is 2 years older than I and he wrote and sang this song when I was 24 in the early 1970's.
In hindsight it was an epitaph of the America lost and prophesy of its future. His "generation lost in space" very well predicted the future generation born between 1971 and 2001 (9/11 that snapped it), which is lost in cyberspace. And the years preceding between 1953-1971, or his generation, recounted in Susan Faloody's 2000 Book "Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Male." The great history of rock and roll from 1953 Buddy Holly, James Dean and Elvis the King, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Byrds (8 miles high), and Mick Jagger (jumpn jack flash)and John Lennon are all historically lyricized.
When and why he felt the music died remains a mystery but at the general period of time the whole rock and roll movement had made a transition from innocence and creative art to more heavy metal and hard core nonsense music that was no longer music but noise that emiited from the whole technological transition of the world occurring at that time. Don's extra sense not only saw this paradigm shift in music and in culture but was profound in making it a milestone
by his song "American Pie". In other words, the American Dream had reached its peak and he correctly sounded it out metaphorically. Hats off to Don and lets hope the next generation will pickup the beat.

CTY | Reviewer: cty<3er | 11/28/07

i am so glad i won't be a nevermore 4 a while. it's going 2 be so sad when i have 2 leave cty, and i know so many of last year's nevermores and how hard it is. I WILL MISS CTY, MY CONDOLENCES 2 ANY OTHER CERIOUSLY TALENTED YOUTH!!!!!!

lyric about whiskey in Rye? | Reviewer: Andy | 8/14/07

There appears to be some controversy about whether the correct lyric is "Whiskey in Rye" or "whiskey and rye". Some are claiming that Rye or Rhye is a town somewhere. Any thoughts?

All Hail the CTY Canon!!! | Reviewer: Gabrielle | 6/22/07

All Hail CTY!!!
All Hail the CTY Canon!!!
And, most importantly, ALL HAIL AMERICAN PIE!!!
Two days from now I start my Nevermore year.
At aproximately 10:30 on a Thursday night three weeks from now I will be swaying in that Nevermore circle, chanting my last of CTY's greatest tradition.
As the words "this'll be the day that I die" fade, I will leave my last CTY dance. Never more to return to that family...
But I will be thinking, "This'll be my last of CTY...it will never die"

The Greatest Song of All Time. | Reviewer: Lord of Sandtownia. | 5/31/07

There is honestly too much in this song to get it all in one hit, or even one lifetime. The death of Buddy Holly and the Crickets, is definitely in there, along with references to the Beatles (the sergeants), Bob Dylan(the Jester), Janis Jopplin (the girl who sang the blues), Elvis (The King) and many many more, such as the Byrds and the Rolling Stones.

It is ultimately the greatest song of all time.

Spectactular Song from Don McLean | Reviewer: Makayla Leach | 4/23/07

If you had to rate Don McLean's songs, 1 being the worst and ten being the best, then Don McLean's "American Pie" would recieve a 111,111,111,111,111. I know that this is a large number, but I think that you can understand that I am a big fan. If I could meet Don McLean, live and in person, then I would faint, and then, if he would stay with me until I woke up, then I would probably faint until he left, and then after I faint twice, I would probably like to try to see him again if possible. If I could not get him to come to my house or on a date with me, then I would probably be sad till the cows come home. I am also a big fan of some of his other hits, but if I stop to name them all I think I might really faint from the exhaustion. And besides, I don't want to hog this web page to myself, so I think that I should be going now, before I write anymore. And just incase Don Mclean could read this at all, I have one thing to say before I submit this to the website and shut down......:

I LOVE YOU DON MCLEAN!!!!!!
Please see the smiley central website that I set up and know that I love you all out there. I grant you peace. Go forth, multiply!! And maybe when our paths cross again I can take more time to breifly describe how I am and what I am doing at that moment, and we can have fun catching up together for the time that we spent away from each other.

Until next time my freinds,
May god grant you peace Amen.,
Forever yours,
And yours truly,
Makayla Judith Leach



Loved By All | Reviewer: Mait | 5/27/05

I absolutly love this song. It is one that makes you want to get up and dance. It is loved by people young and old. i know this because i myself, being only the age of 13, loves this song. Most of my friends love this song too. This is probably one of the few songs that will be loved by many for years to come.