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“American Pie”: Dear Taylor Swift, You’re No Don McLean

… American Pie legendary; “All Too Well,” not really

It has existed for 50 years on top, but 76-year-old Don McLean was classy after his epic song was dethroned by a piece by a country and western singer.

Not that the single by Taylor Swift will be considered legendary 50 years from now. Still, Don was classy as ever, the “American Pie” artist knowing that his song will never be removed from its iconic status,

The Songwriters Hall of Famer congratulated Swift after her 10-minute edition of “All Too Well” broke his “American Pie” record for longest song to reach the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart.

“Let’s face it, nobody ever wants to lose that #1 spot, but if I had to lose it to somebody, I sure am glad it was another great singer/songwriter such as Taylor,” McLean tweeted Tuesday.

McLean’s seminal “American Pie” is eight minutes and 42 seconds long. He had held the record since 1971, when the song came out.

“ ‘American Pie’ singer Don McLean congratulates Taylor Swift for breaking his longest No. 1 hit record,” New York Daily News, November 26, 2021

What was the story of American Pie?

Well, here is a synopsis about the iconic song that was the longest number one single until some 21st Century C&W singer came along with something longer,

Half a century on, Don McLean's folk-rock anthem about the souring of the American Dream continues to confound and inspire.

Along, long time ago – 50 years ago, actually – Don McLean was a little-known singer-songwriter with a lot on his mind. The then 25-year-old was living in New York, writing songs for the follow-up to his debut album Tapestry, and felt he needed “a big song to tie it all together”.

“I was conscious of the fact that I was trying to create a rock’n’roll dream sequence,” McLean told me in 1997, of his concept for American Pie. “But it was way more than rock’n’roll. It was about an America that was coming apart at the seams. I was trying to create this American song, but not like This Land Is Your Land or America The Beautiful. I wanted to connect with the parts of America that mattered to me, starting with Buddy Holly. Buddy didn’t matter to anybody when I wrote this song, I have to tell you.”

On the day the music, or Holly, died in 1959, McLean was a 13-year old paper boy in New Rochelle, NY. “The opening part of the song was born in one piece,” he said. “I wrote it remembering how it was the day I saw the newspaper, and the article that said my favourite artist had been killed. That got me started.”

Bill DeMain, “The story behind American Pie by Don McLean,” Classic Rock, August 17, 2021

When McLean pitched the song, it was much shorter than the final version of eight-and-a-half minutes,

For what grew into an elaborate jigsaw puzzle that joins different sections, characters and emotions, the assembly required patience. McLean said: “A while later, I wrote the chorus and came up with the title. It’s apple pie, parts of the pie. We’re always talking about the economic pie, and pie has sexual significance as well. Then one day, in a blaze of glory, I just wrote the whole rest of the song, and I tied together musical imagery of unspecified meaning with this story about America.”

When McLean took the song to producer Ed Freeman, he played an abridged version. “He sang me the first verse and chorus,” Freeman tells Classic Rock. “He said: ‘That’s all I’ve done so far.’ I said: ‘Hey, you should finish that. It sounds like a hit record.’ I think he’d already finished it, but he didn’t want to sing it all. It’s sort of an imposing thing to do to somebody you’re trying to involve as a record producer, sing an eight-and-a-half-minute song [laughs].”

Bill DeMain, “The story behind American Pie by Don McLean,” Classic Rock, August 17, 2021

As the classic put-down of Dan Quayle iterated,

I knew Don McLean. Don McLean was my friend. Taylor, you’re no Don McLean.

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