Main | Tuesday, February 03, 2009

#1 This Week In 1972

Fifty years ago today, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash in rural Iowa. And this week in 1972, Don McLean's tribute song to the three and to rock-n-roll in general, American Pie, spent the last of its four weeks at #1 on Billboard's pop chart. Clocking in at more than eight and a half minutes, American Pie is longest song to ever hit #1. The lyrics to American Pie, considered to be an almost exhaustive examination of then young history of rock-n-roll and the counterculture, are among the most studied of any song in rock history and have been the subject of countless college theses. Directly name-checked in American Pie are John Lennon, Karl Marx, the Byrds, and James Dean. But far more numerous are the allusions to counterculture touchstones such as Bob Dylan, Woodstock, the Beatles, Charles Manson, Janis Joplin, Mick Jagger, Altamont, the Hell's Angels, marijuana, and the 1968 Democratic convention. The Songs Of The Century Project lists American Pie as the fifth most significant song of the 20th century

TRIVIA: Roberta Flack's Killing Me Softly is about Don McLean. American Pie has been covered and parodied by numerous artists. Amusingly, the first cover appeared in 1972 on the Brady Bunch's Meet The Brady Bunch. Other noted artists to cover American Pie include Weird Al Yankovic, Catch 22, Tori Amos, Chris de Burgh, and Garth Brooks, who performed the song at Barack Obama's inauguration concert. In 2000, Madonna's dance take on American Pie reached #29 on the pop chart and #1 on dance. Incidentally, Don McLean considers the expression "cover version" to be racist, as its origin came in the versions of hit R&B songs that white artists hastily recorded in order to, in McLean's words, "keep black artists on black radio where they belonged." McLean is technically right, of course, but decades later the expression has lost its original meaning.

RELATED: At this writing, I cannot think of another song that I dislike as passionately as American Pie.

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