The Influence Of Don Mclean In Rock n’ Roll Culture
Don McLean performing Vincent - brett mitchell / Youtube
Even to the uninitiated, Don McLean’s lasting influence on music, in general, has been a fact established even early on in his career. But no one can deny that he rose to superstardom with the song “American Pie”, which was an ode to the massive loss that the music industry suffered due to the tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and JP Richardson. He even made it so that the song represented the loss of innocence of the early rock and roll generation.
In an interview with the Library of Congress, McLean shared how the first drafts of the song came to be. “When I started writing the song, I lived in a little gate house owned by James Bennenson, Jr. It was in Cold Spring on the Hudson, a little town near Garrison, just north of Peekskill. So, I lived in that gate house because I needed a place to stay, because I had no money at the time. I was working with Pete Seeger’s environmental effort to save the Hudson River. I wrote the first part of the song, from ‘Long, long time ago’ to ‘The day the music died,’ there. The chorus was written in the same houses about a month later. I wrote the remainder in the home of my first wife’s parents in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania,” he said.
He also detailed some of the inspirations and influences he had over the years, which in turn, would help him influence future generations with his music. “Who inspired me? All sorts of people. Brian Wilson. Bob Nolan of Sons of the Pioneers, who wrote all those songs of the West. Dylan, especially in the beginning and up through his baptism, [not] after that. I’m sure he’s written additional good songs but I haven’t really listened to them…I could go on… I loved the Beatles. And Buddy Holly and his diversity of ideas, of musical ideas. I’ve found that same sort of thing in the Sons of the Pioneers—the structures that they used—and in the Beach Boys,” he recalled.
McLean eventually went on to be at the forefront of the Americana genre, which was a conglomeration of a wide variety of musical styles and cultural references in America. Folk and country are mainly what McLean did while also being tagged in rock and roll. “
In a nutshell, McLean was influenced by rock and roll just as much as it influenced him. He had close ties with the pioneers and was able to capitalize on it by singing their songs, and in turn, them singing his. Eventually, he was put on a pedestal for all the work he had done for the genre – but his humility thinks that it was just him doing his job, developing his artistry and sharing his passion to the world.