Classic Album: American Pie - Don McLean

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Classic Album: American Pie - Don McLean



Rightly celebrated as a folk-rock milestone, with its giant, patriotic thumb dominating the sleeve, American Pie remains a melancholy classic. 

Written when McLean’s first marriage was in trouble, this 1971 album is sparsely arranged, from the title track about the day that music died (a tribute to Buddy Holly) to the medieval canon of Babylon. Humble pie indeed. 

Yet there is soaring poetry – in the “swirling clouds in violet haze” of heartbreaker Vincent – and timelessness, too, as George Michael knew when he covered the angrily anti-war protest The Grave.

Producer Ed Freeman, Jake Bugg and McLean himself, now 72, are among those to shed light on the starry night of his career. McLean is also a contributor to the Buddy Holly documentary Rave On at 11pm.


Crowned by its titular overture, McLean's 1971 second album is a classic of the folk-rock genre. Here, the singer discusses the intricacies of his songs, the sometimes fraught recording process, and the album's legacy. Other contributors include producer Ed Freeman and musician Jake Bugg, whose musical path was initiated when hearing Vincent for the first time on the TV. Plus, a poignant archive performance of George Michael performing The Grave.

Cast & Crew

Contributor Don McLean
Contributor Ed Freeman
Contributor Jake Bugg
Director George Scott
Executive Producer Terry Shand
Executive Producer Geoff Kempin
Producer Nick de Grunwald
Producer Celia Moore
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Music Education