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Don McLean celebrates 50 years of “American Pie”

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Don McLean

Singer-songwriter Don McLean is celebrating American pie with a 50th anniversary tour coming to Grand Rapids Friday, June 17th at the Devos performance hall at 08:00 PM time ago.

Don McLean celebrates the 50th anniversary of his iconic hit song “American Pie” this year. It’s one of the few truly epic songs to chart on the radio with its 8 and a half minutes. He’s also renowned for his other great hits “Vincent” and “Wonderful Baby.” But McLean has never stopped writing songs and he’s released over 22 albums with “American Boys” his 23rd coming out this year. The American Pie Anniversary Tour comes to Grand Rapids on Friday June 17th at DeVos Performance Hall. McLean is already fond of the city after the Grand Rapids American Pie lip dub made news in 2011 with thousands of people participating, including WGVU’s Shelley Irwin.

McLean’s last album was “Botanical Gardens” …here’s the title track…

Music – “Botanical Gardens” by Don McLean

Don McLean: Well, Botanical Gardens is the last album I made and new album is coming out this year called American Boys. So I'm still recording new songs and I'm really very proud of Botanical Gardens. There are some songs on there that I like a lot. One of them is The Lucky Guy and another one is ‘Ain't She a Honey,’ which I thought was one of the cutest little records. And yeah, I mean, with that to turn that there's another song on there that I like when July com that, so I think that's in there with some of the best stuff I've ever done.

Scott VanderWerf: Well, you close it with the Sinatra cover, ‘Last Night When We Were Young.’ Does this does this album…it's kind of like it's you're looking back but at the same time you're you're sort of gathering themes that you are writing about 50 years ago.

DM: Well, it it was really written as my last marriage was starting to break apart. Stuff was brewing and the songs are coming out me I’d cried all the tears that I have you know, you've got such beautiful eyes. I'm very proud of that record this. Very nice. Very nice ideas that turned out to be nice songs. And the album was produced by Mike Sievers and me together. He's produced the last few albums. I made. He still playing favorites, addicted to black. And this now American boys. So, we've done a few albums together. He is my way of self-producing in a way because he does a lot of the work and makes a lot of the tracks. You know, does it all really. Really but it's like an extension of myself. So it we worked very, very well together.

SV: Well, and you are going to be coming to Grand Rapids on the American pie 50th anniversary tour. And you also have a book coming out called the American pie fable. How did that come about?

DM: Well, that’s a children’s book and that came about as a result, the working with a man named Spencer proffer who is an entrepreneur and who is decided that you want to he has put out a book-a-zine with our music publishing. It’s a 98-page magazine on the creation of American pies all celebrate the American pie 50th anniversary. He's behind the movie the day the music died. The story of Don McLean's, American Pie and his wife is a brilliant children's book writer. I imagine she writes for adults too but she came up with this idea of American pie stable about the exploits of a paper boy got a boy and beautifully illustrated. They created this book and really isn’t about the song American pie. But it takes a little element of it and creates a children's story. And there's going to be a Vincent book and they're already getting the work done on that right now. The contract has been signed to that. They'll probably be 4 or 5 of the books based on some songs of my that's going to be a whole little cottage industry.

SV: Well, American pie rose out of the late 60's early 70's time and looking backwards, what can you tell people that maybe weren't alive about then what it was like in in what was the impulse to write the song.

DM: Well, that is why the movie is going to be so much fun for people of all ages who like this song and even people who hate the song will probably find the movie very interesting because the song is not going to go any place, it is always going to be around. And so, I'm sure there's an interest on both sides as to how this all happened and the movie very, very vividly create with documentary footage. What America was going through at that time. And I don't think people today who say perhaps that, you know this little thing about black lives matter or this little thing in Seattle or the occasionally there's a riot somewhere that means the country is falling apart at the seams. It is not falling apart. Then it was falling apart at the seams in 1969 70, though, and you can see it so old. That thing, the hatred that people had for Donald Trump and it was tremendous nothing compared to the hatred we had for Nixon and low and LBJ Lyndon Johnson and the damage you're doing in the world. You know, killing hundreds of thousands of Asia for nothing and our boys and girls having children brought home in body bags. This is the whole thing. You know, that’s the environment, you know that the song was written in.

SV: Well, I was 11 years old when the song came out. I remember I found it even as a you know, very young person to be profound, even though I didn't quite know the details.

DM: Well, that's the idea that, you know, if you write a song where you're dispensing with a lot of detail. You might as well just have a laundry list, you know, or some sort of, you know, check out the, you know, the kind of Bill you get a checkout counter. That's not a song writer. What you want a song that got to express a whole lot of different ideas and it's got to make people think and got to move people. And I was very ambitious when I was young and not to make money, but to try to do things that I thought were wonderful if I could get them recorded because I didn’t want to do other people's music. At that point I love doing other people's music sometimes. But I was really focusing on a whole lot of ideas that I had accumulated that they want to get out there and it did it. I did it. So I got to say that, every time I look back it was going to look back I say well I did it.

SV: Well. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us and for coming to Grand Rapids. Singer-songwriter Don McLean is celebrating American pie with a 50th anniversary tour coming to Grand Rapids Friday, June 17th at the Devos performance hall at 08:00PM time ago.

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