Help ATS with a contribution via PayPal:
learn more

Understanding lyrics of American Pie

page: 1
7

log in

join

posted on Jun, 8 2013 @ 12:46 AM
link   
I can still remember how That music used to make me smile. And I knew if I had my chance, That I could make those people dance, And maybe they'd be happy for a while.
Sociologists credit teenagers with the popularity of Rock and Roll, as a part of the Baby boomer generation, they found themselves in a very influencial position. Their shear number were the force behind most of our country's recent major transitions. McLean was a teenager in 1959 and he begins by simply commenting that the music had an appealing quality to him as well as the millions of other teens. McLean also had an intense desire to entertain as a musician. His dream, to play in a band at high school dances, was the dream of many young boys who wanted to make people dance to Rock and Roll.
But February made me shiver,
Buddy Holly died on February 3, 1959, in a plane crash in Iowa during a snowstorm. Its rumored that the name of the plane was: American Pie.
With every paper I'd deliver,
Don McLean's only job besides being a full-time singer/song writer was being a paperboy.
Bad news on the doorstep... I couldn't take one more step. I can't remember if I cried When I read about his widowed bride
Holly's recent bride was pregnant when the crash took place; she had a miscarriage shortly afterward.
But something touched me deep inside, The day the music died.
The same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly also tragically took the lives of Richie Valens ("La Bamba") and The Big Bopper ("Chantilly Lace.") Since all three were so prominent at the time, February 3, 1959, became known as "The Day The Music Died."So...
(Refrain) Bye bye Miss American Pie,

**Don McLean dated a Miss America candidate during a pageant and broke up with her on February 3, 1959. (Unconfirmed interpretation)
So its probably...
Just a reference to the plane, "American Pie" that crahed.
I drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry, Them good ol' boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye Singing "This'll be the day that I die, This'll be the day that I die."
Driving the Chevy to the levee almost certainly refers to the three college students whose murder was the subject of the film 'Mississippi Burning.' The students were attempting to register as black voters, and after being killed by bigoted thugs their bodies were buried in a levee. Them good ol' boys being: Holly, Valens, and the Big Bopper, They were singing about their death on February 3. One of Holly's hits was "That'll be the Day"; the chorus contains the line "That'll be the day that I die."
(Verse 2) Did you write the book of love,
"The Book of Love" by the Monotones; hit in 1958."Oh I wonder, wonder who... who, who wrote the book of love?"
And do you have faith in God above, If the Bible tells you so?
**In 1955, Don Cornell did a song entitled "The Bible Tells Me So." It was difficult to tell if it was what McLean was referencing. Anyone know for sure?
There is also an old Sunday School song that goes:"Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so" McLean was somewhat religious.

Now do you believe in rock 'n roll?The Lovin' Spoonful had a hit in 1965 with John Sebastian's "Do you Believe in Magic?". The song has the lines: "Do you believe in magic" and "It's like trying to tell a stranger 'bout rock and roll."
Can music save your mortal soul? And can you teach me how to dance real slow?
Music was believed to "save the soul" and slow dancing was an important part of early rock and roll dance events. Dancing declined in importance through the 60's as things like psychedelia and the 10-minute guitar solo gained prominence.
McLean was asking many questions about the early rock 'n roll in an attempt to keep it alive or find out if it was already dead.

Well I know that you're in love with him 'Cause I saw you dancing in the gym
Back then, dancing was an expression of love,and carried a connotation of commitment. Dance partners were not so readily exchanged as they would be later.
You both kicked off your shoes
A reference to the beloved "sock hop." (Street shoes tear up wooden basketball floors, so dancers had to take off their shoes.)
Man, I dig those rhythm 'n' blues
Before the popularity of rock and roll, music, like much elsewhere in the U. S., was highly segregated. The popular music of black performers for largely black audiences was called, first "race music," later softened to rhythm and blues. In the early 50s, as they were exposed to it through radio personalities such as Allan Freed, white teenagers began listening, too. Starting around 1954, a number of songs from the rhythm and blues charts began appearing on the overall popular charts as well, but usually in cover versions by established white artists, (e.g."Shake Rattle and Roll," Joe Turner, covered by Bill Haley; "Sh-Boom, "the Chords, covered by the Crew-Cuts; "Sincerely," the Moonglows, covered by the McGuire Sisters; Tweedle Dee, LaVerne Baker, covered by Georgia Gibbs). By 1955, some of the rhythm and blues artists, like Fats Domino and Little Richard were able to get records on the overall pop charts.In 1956 Sun records added elements of country and western to produce the kind of rock and roll tradition that produced Buddy Holly.
I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
"A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation), "was a hit for Marty Robbins in 1957. The pickup truck has endured as a symbol of sexual independence and potency, especially in a Texas context.(Also, Jimmy Buffet does a song about "a white sport coat and a pink crustacean.":-) )
But I knew that I was out of luck The day the music died I started singing...
Refrain

(Verse 3) Now for ten years we've been on our own...
edit on (6/8/1313 by shells4u because: (no reason given)




posted on Jun, 8 2013 @ 12:52 AM
link   
reply to post by shells4u
 
McLean was writing this song in the late 60's,about ten years after the crash.
And moss grows fat on a rolling stone
It's unclear who the "rolling stone" is supposed to be. It could be Dylan, since "Like a Rolling Stone" (1965) was his first major hit; and since he was busy writing songs ex-tolling the virtues of simple love, family and contentment while staying at home (he didn't tour from '66 to '74) and raking in the royalties. This was quite a change from the earlier, angrier Dylan.
The "rolling stone" could also be Elvis Presley, although I don't think he started to pork out by the late sixties. he-he!

It could refer to rock and rollers, and the changes that had taken place in the business in the 60's, especially the huge amounts of cash some of them were beginning to make, and the relative stagnation that entered the music at the same time.

Or, it could refer to the Rolling Stones themselves, many musicians were angry at the Stones for "selling out." I discovered that John Foxx of Ultravox was sufficiently miffed to write a song titled "Life At Rainbow's End (For All The Tax Exiles On Main Street)." The Stone sat one point became citizens of some other country merely to save taxes.

But that's not how it used to be When the jester sang for the King and Queen
The jester is Bob Dylan, as will become clear later. There are several interpretations of king and queen: some think that Elvis Presley is the king, which seems rather obvious. The queen is said to be either Connie Francis or Little Richard. See the next note.
An alternate interpretation is that this refers to the Kennedys -- the King and Queen of "Camelot" -- who were present at a Washington DC civil rights rally featuring Martin Luther King. (There'sa recording of Dylan performing at this rally. The Jester.)

The third interpretation is that the jester could be Lee Harvey Oswald who sang (shouted) before he was shot for the murder of the King (JFK).In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
In the movie "Rebel Without a Cause," James Dean has a red windbreaker that holds symbolic meaning throughout the film (see note at end). In one particularly intense scene, Dean lends his coat to a guy who is shot and killed; Dean's father arrives, sees the coat on the dead man, thinks it's Dean, and loses it. On the cover of "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan," Dylan is wearing just such a red windbreaker, posed in a street scene similar to movie starring James Dean.
Bob Dylan played a command performance for the Queen of England. He was *not* properly attired, so perhaps this is a reference to his apparel.

And a voice that came from you and me
Bob Dylan's roots are in American folk music,with people like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. Folk music is by definition the music of the masses, hence the "...came from you and me."
Oh, and while the King was looking down The jester stole his thorny crown
Likely a reference to Elvis' decline and Dylan's ascendance (i.e. Presley is looking down from a height as Dylan takes his place). Consider that Elvis was is the army at the time of Dylan's ascendancy and a common Army marching song sings, "Ain't no use in looking down, ain't no discharge on the ground". The thorny crown might be a reference to the price of fame. Dylan has said that he wanted to be as famous as Elvis, one of his early idols.
or...
Lee Harvey Oswald being the jester who ended the reign of JFK and "stole his crown."
or...A third interpretation is the quote made by John Lennon and taken out of context indicating that John felt The Beatles were more popular then Jesus. John and The Beatles took the crown from Christ.
The courtroom was adjourned, No verdict was returned.
This could be the trial of the Chicago Seven.
but its more likely to be...
The fact that no verdict was returned for the assassination of JFK because the assassin was killed so the court was adjourned.
And while Lennon read a book on Marx,
Or it could be be...
And while Lenin rean a book on Marx,
Someone has to introduce Vladamir Lenin, the father of Marxist communism, to the idealogy of Karl Marx.
I love the play on words here...
Literally, John Lennon reading about Karl Marx; figuratively, the introduction of radical politics into the music of The Beatles. (Of course, he could be referring to Groucho Marx, but that doesn't seem quite consistent with McLean's overall tone. On the other hand, some of the wordplay in Lennon's lyrics and books is reminiscent of Groucho.)The "Marx-Lennon" word play has also been used by others, most notably the Firesign Theatre on the cover of their album "How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All?" The Beatles "Here, There and Everywhere," for example. Also, a famous French witticism was "Je suis Marxiste, tendance Groucho. " (I'm a Marxist of the Groucho variety).
The quartet practiced in the parkThere are two schools of thought about this; the obvious one is The Beatles playing in Shea Stadium, but note that the previous line has John Lennon *doing something else at the same time*. This tends to support the theory that this is a reference to the Weavers, who were blacklisted during the McCarthy era. McLean had become friends with Lee Hays of the Weavers in the early 60's while performing in coffeehouses and clubs in upstate New York and New York City. He was also well acquainted with Pete Seeger; McLean, Seeger, and others took a trip on the Hudson river singing anti-pollution songs at one point. Seeger's LP "God Bless the Grass" contains many of these songs.
And we sang dirges in the dark
A "dirge" is a funeral or mourning song, so perhaps this is meant literally...or, perhaps, this is a reference to some of the new "art rock" groups that played long pieces not meant for dancing. In the dark of the death of Holly.
The day the music died. We were singing...
Refrain

(Verse 4) Helter Skelter in a summer swelter

"Helter Skelter" is a Beatles song that appears on the "White" album. Charles Manson, claiming to have been "inspired"by the song (through which he thought God and/or the devil were taking to him) led his followers in the Tate-LaBianca murders.
Is "summer swelter" a reference to the "Summer of Love" or perhaps to the "long hot summer" of Watts?

The birds flew off with the fallout shelter Eight miles high and falling fast



posted on Jun, 8 2013 @ 12:55 AM
link   
reply to post by shells4u
 

Theres too much to post so here is the sourcerareexception.com/Garden/Pie.php

I just wanted to pass this onto some of the younger crowd that has heard the song but not the meaning



posted on Jun, 8 2013 @ 01:16 AM
link   
reply to post by shells4u
 

Thank you for that shells4u. I remember this well from many a day past and wish with all my heart I was still there.

I read everything you wrote as well and have never considered "all" the meanings behind the words. Some yes as they are hard to miss. Don't know if this will touch anyone from this generation but it touched me. S&F



posted on Jun, 8 2013 @ 01:21 AM
link   
reply to post by shells4u
 


Awww... you stopped at my favorite line (fav b/c I figured it out for myself as a teenager!)



The birds flew off with the fallout shelter Eight miles high and falling fast

Reference to the The Byrds' song entitled "8 Miles High"



posted on Jun, 8 2013 @ 01:23 AM
link   
reply to post by shells4u
 


I used to be a musician, and I came up with a really good way for producing lyrics people will like. Its the three meanings law. You try to produce lyrics with one surface meaning, one veiled message to someone else, and one more veiled message to someone else. You make sure the lyrics are consistent in all 3 contexts. If you do this, people will feel the lyrics are talking to them, because in order to fit the three meanings, they will have become sufficiently vague that they can be mapped to about anything. The performer has to deliver them with emotion, as if s/he's trying to relay something, but can't quite say it explicitly. A lot of the great classics follow this format, and you can identify multiple layers of meaning if you try... But they will probably have nothing to do with the meanings the song writer had in mind... The greatness of the song is that people can make it meaningful in their own lives.
edit on 8-6-2013 by tridentblue because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 8 2013 @ 01:23 AM
link   
Me too!!! Maybe I will do a thread about Hotel California next...
edit on (6/8/1313 by shells4u because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 8 2013 @ 01:24 AM
link   
reply to post by shells4u
 


And moss grows fat on a rolling stone

Brian Jones. He died in 1969.

Your exegesis goes into too much detail about specific words and phrases. Pull back a little and you'll see the whole picture.

The irony of it was that Don McLean was no rock 'n' roller.



posted on Jun, 8 2013 @ 01:26 AM
link   
reply to post by new_here
 

Yep your exactly right...



posted on Jun, 8 2013 @ 01:34 AM
link   
Although I found this interpretation on the net, my Social Studies teacher in High School had us break down these lyrics and search the meanings...Great teacher and a fun subject...



posted on Jun, 8 2013 @ 01:58 AM
link   
Here are a few links about American Pie, which are quite similar to yours......

www.cfa.harvard.edu...

www.whrc-wi.org...

www.rareexception.com...



posted on Jun, 8 2013 @ 12:47 PM
link   

Originally posted by shells4u

Me too!!! Maybe I will do a thread about Hotel California next...


I love the "study" of lyric interpretation. I have spent years and years pondering and researching potential meanings of songs.

With that said though, I also think it's sort of sacrilegious at the same time.
What a song means to you...both literally and figuratively, may be totally different to what it means to me. Its one of the main reasons Pearl Jam has consistently refused to make music videos of most of their hits. It's also why Eddie Vedder has usually changed the words from the original each time YellowLedbetter is performed. And why most can't understand what he says when he sings it on the original recording of it.

Maybe it's just too personal to him...and the way I understand it it is...and/or he doesn't want to take away the personal meaning the song has for others.

As for Hotel California, I can't wait for that one! I've got a really good story about the meaning of "...warm smell of colidas, rising up through the air." And no, it probably has nothing to do with what you're thinking!!!!!



posted on Jun, 8 2013 @ 07:02 PM
link   

Originally posted by webpirate

Originally posted by shells4u

Me too!!! Maybe I will do a thread about Hotel California next...


I love the "study" of lyric interpretation. I have spent years and years pondering and researching potential meanings of songs.

With that said though, I also think it's sort of sacrilegious at the same time.
What a song means to you...both literally and figuratively, may be totally different to what it means to me. Its one of the main reasons Pearl Jam has consistently refused to make music videos of most of their hits. It's also why Eddie Vedder has usually changed the words from the original each time YellowLedbetter is performed. And why most can't understand what he says when he sings it on the original recording of it.

Maybe it's just too personal to him...and the way I understand it it is...and/or he doesn't want to take away the personal meaning the song has for others.

As for Hotel California, I can't wait for that one! I've got a really good story about the meaning of "...warm smell of colidas, rising up through the air." And no, it probably has nothing to do with what you're thinking!!!!!






It is spelled:COLITAS and means:Little tails in spanish; In mexican slang it refers to the buds of the cannabis plant.

Don Henley and Glen wrote most of the words...according to wiki its just a little diddy about coming into L.A. and the lifestyle...but yes I agree it takes so much of the soul out of a song when it is over dissected...but many singer song writers who made songs as a political statement and such expected and I think want us as listeners to understand where they are coming from, what knowledge they want to share and so forth....



posted on Jun, 10 2013 @ 01:38 AM
link   
reply to post by shells4u
 


American Pie seems to be a prophetic funeral hymn for America more than anything else.



posted on Jun, 10 2013 @ 01:54 AM
link   

Originally posted by tridentblue
reply to post by shells4u
 


I used to be a musician, and I came up with a really good way for producing lyrics people will like. Its the three meanings law. You try to produce lyrics with one surface meaning, one veiled message to someone else, and one more veiled message to someone else. You make sure the lyrics are consistent in all 3 contexts. If you do this, people will feel the lyrics are talking to them, because in order to fit the three meanings, they will have become sufficiently vague that they can be mapped to about anything. The performer has to deliver them with emotion, as if s/he's trying to relay something, but can't quite say it explicitly. A lot of the great classics follow this format, and you can identify multiple layers of meaning if you try... But they will probably have nothing to do with the meanings the song writer had in mind... The greatness of the song is that people can make it meaningful in their own lives.
edit on 8-6-2013 by tridentblue because: (no reason given)


Excellent! In practice, i'm sure this is done often on purpose, though I never really put much thought to it before. Makes me want to take a stab at throwing a song, painting, or something together myself based on this principal.

What I always thought, when I would be discussing "meanings" behind things and realizing that the various interpretations could all be right, all be valid, was that sometimes it has more to do with artists having a greater propensity than average for...well, not sure the best words to describe, but to "tap into the universe" for lack of a better term. As the Bible has layers of meaning intended for everyone, from the most superficial level, "average Joe"-appropriate material, to various levels of information for everyone from the neophyte to the highly-initiated. For the same reason, people will find what they see as different meanings in songs, paintings, poetry, religious texts, etc. In the most fine of fine art, from the greatest masters, those who have the ability to understand can see all of those meanings, and also, in at least some cases, see that allof those "levels" of meaning are one and the same, though on the surface likely wouldn't look as though they are.

Different angles/perspectives, different levels of understanding, but all finding or seeing truths through the same lens. This was maybe a little off-track of the topic (which, by the way OP, was a truly enjoyable read), but tridentblue's comment here really got me thinking, especially after seeing so many examples of probably-purposeful layered meanings spelled out in the OP.



posted on Jun, 10 2013 @ 05:19 AM
link   
reply to post by shells4u
 


Other songs that are good to dissect are ones written by Simon and Garfunkel.Did those in school and had fun with them.






top topics



 
7

log in

join