Sixty years ago today a plane fell out of the sky and this was finished:
American Rock n Roll musicians Buddy Holly (22), Ritchie Valens (17), and JP ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson (28) were killed when their plane crashed in Iowa.
In 1971 Don McLean sang about that day AND – less known – about another day ten years later:
When asked what “American Pie” meant, McLean jokingly replied, “It means I don’t ever have to work again if I don’t want to.” Later, he stated, “You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me … Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.” In February 2015, McLean announced he would reveal the meaning of the lyrics to the song when the original manuscript went for auction. The lyrics and notes were auctioned on April 7, and sold for $1.2 million. In the sale catalogue notes, McLean revealed the meaning in the song’s lyrics: “Basically in American Pie things are heading in the wrong direction. Life is becoming less idyllic. I don’t know whether you consider that wrong or right but it is a morality song in a sense.” The king mentioned was Elvis, the jester was Bob Dylan.
Then the song also contains a much longer, and near-verbatim description of the death of Meredith Hunter at the hands of drunken Hells Angels at a free concert in California ten years after the plane crash that killed Holly, Valens, and Richardson. Where the music died a much more tragic and violent death. A death that was not an accident.
Oh, 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
In 1972 the title of the song came to bite me when I embarrassingly cocked up the most important part of my matric dance. None of that.