6 Things You Didn't Know About Don McLean's "American Pie"

On January 15, 1972, “American Pie,”, an epic poem in musical form hit #1 on the Billboard charts. Few songs embrace American culture more than Don McLean's famous tune, "American Pie." Here are six surprising facts you might now know about this classic song...


It's The Longest Song To Ever Top the Billboard Hot 100 Chart At a lengthy eight minutes and thirty-six seconds, "American Pie" is not only a very long song, but it's also the longest tune to have ever reached the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In fact, the song is so long that the 45 RPM single had to be divided into two parts, and some DJs only played one side or the other, although most acquiesced and played the uninterrupted album version, due to the song's phenomenal popularity. The song includes no fewer than six verses.

The Song Was Voted #5 In A Survey Of The Greatest Songs Of The Century As the 1990s drew to a close, a poll, jointly sponsored by the National Endowment For The Arts and the RIAA, was conducted to determine a list of the best songs of the century, and "American Pie" came in at number five. The track beat out some classic songs of the 20th century, including the likes of "Respect," "Over The Rainbow," and "This Land Is Your Land."


The Real Meaning of Many of the Lyrics Remain a Mystery While we can speculate what all of the lyrics to the classic song might mean, no one will really know for sure. That's because McLean continues to refuse to talk about the meaning behind most of the lyrics. "As you can imagine, over the years I've been asked many times to discuss and explain my song 'American Pie,'" McLean wrote in an open letter to fans in 1993. "I have never discussed the lyrics, but have admitted to the [Buddy] Holly reference in the opening stanzas. I dedicated the album American Pie to Buddy Holly as well in order to connect the entire statement to Holly in hopes of bringing about an interest in him, which subsequently did occur... You will find many 'interpretations' of my lyrics but none of them by me. Isn't this fun? 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."

"American Pie" Covers Don't Have a Good Track Record Considering how popular "American Pie" has been over the decades, it should come as no surprise that the song has been covered a handful of times. Unfortunately, some covers have not been well-received and have actually been named some of the worst covers ever. The first major cover version was done by the Brady Bunch for their first album, Meet the Brady Bunch in 1972. The group was criticized for failing to capture the true essence of the song. But other covers have also been hailed as some of the worst covers too, including pop star Madonna's version. Rolling Stone magazine even named Madonna's version as the third-worst cover of all time.

4 Famous Singers Participated In The Background Chorus Among the uncredited singers in the background chorus included James Taylor, Carly Simon, Pete Seeger, and Livingston Taylor. This all-star chorale were simply named as the "West Forty Fourth Street Rhythm and Noise Choir'' on the album sleeve. "It was quite a star-studded cast, and one that I really should have photographed," said producer Ed Freeman.

The "Jester" Lyrics Were Likely About Bob Dylan The line, "The jester on the sidelines in a cast" has been assumed to be about singer Bob Dylan and is potentially in reference to Dylan's motorcycle accident. The incident left him injured and caused him to take a leave of absence from his craft to heal. Further, McLean also sings that the jester appears "In a coat he borrowed from James Dean," referring to Dylan's cover photo for his Freewheelin' album where he poses in a jacket similar to the one worn by James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. "And while the king was looking down/The jester stole his thorny crown" would seem to refer to Dylan supplanting Elvis Presley as messiah to the masses.