In a sneak peek video clip of the episode, Rather asks McLean if he has any idea why his ‘70s megahit “American Pie” continues to be so popular and relevant.
McLean offers up some thoughtful insight with his reply. “There are so many aspects to it. You’ll see different parts of it used all over. People will use it for parodies. Kids sing it. Children grow up with it cuz it’s a certain level, a children’s song, McLean explains. “And then it’s one of these sort of mythical type folk songs. A couple of them where the poetry is a little bit obscure, but it’s not completely unknowable. It’s pretty understandable. It’s meant to be understandable – because it’s really a dream.”
Rather further notes that the song has become a “cultural flashpoint for some people about what was perceived to be the decline of America.”
McClean agrees, adding that a sort of “anything goes” philosophy has crept in since Present Kennedy was killed, which helped create “a form of decadence in our country” with which he notes that “civility has disappeared.”
During the candid hour-long interview, McLean credits Kennedy’s death, along with his father and Buddy Holly’s passing inspired him to write the 8.5-minute folk track, which went on to become one of his signature songs.
The pair also reflect on McLean’s early beginnings and how the New Rochelle, New York saw playing the guitar as “a way out” of his hometown. They also talk about the inspiration behind another of McLean’s smash hits, “Vincent.”
Don McLean is widely considered to be one of the biggest folk-rock legends in music history. He has continued to write and record songs and play shows to live audiences for more than five decades. He’s inspired legions of aspiring artists across multiple generations. Fans and critics alike also regard McLean as a prolific storyteller. In fact, “American Pie” came in at No. 2 on the AXS ranking “A List of Songs that Tell the Best Story.”
Be sure to tune in to “The Big Interview” this Wednesday, May 20 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT to watch the rest of Don McLean and Dan Rather’s conversation unfold. Find AXS TV on your TV.