We Were Singin’

We Were Singin’

American icon not ready to say bye-bye



It’s a double-edged sword, Don McLean admits, when you’re attached to something as colossal as a song like “American Pie.”

“I’ve had Don McLean and his career, and then I’ve had the fact that I’m attached to this enormous thing that I created,” the folk rock icon muses. “If I’d had three or four more of those, I would be Bruce Springsteen. But I didn’t. So, it is what it is, and it’s fascinating. I’m fascinated with its history and how it’s had so many things happen to it; it’s endless.”

McLean’s magnum opus has been covered and parodied innumerable times, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, listed as No. 5 in the Recording Industry Association of America’s selection of “Songs of the Century” and, in 2017, joined less than 500 other works as it was inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.

“I was poor; I had nothing. So I have everything now, and it’s all because of, not just that song, but my performing. Working, year in and year out.”

McLean confesses he doesn’t write much anymore — he doesn’t know what to say about what’s going on in the world. And though he might try to squeeze out one or two more albums, it’s the performing and the audience interaction that gets him up in the morning these days.

“It’s one of the central pillars of my existence,” he says of that relationship. “The direction I took of singing for people, writing songs — not just love songs, not just entertainment songs, but songs about poverty and the environment and what’s going on in people’s heads and America — this is a substantial portion of what I’ve done. And that’s very important to do. I don’t just want to be an entertainer.”

As part of a generation of musicians known for creating art inextricably linked to the political affairs of the time, McLean laments the state of protest art today.

“The environment is in the toilet; we have serious wars going on that nobody protests, we don’t even hear about them; and then you have this PC attitude on college campuses,” he points out.

“Nobody just goes to a concert and puts their offending self to the side and says, ‘I’m just going to have fun, I don’t care what he says, I’m just going to watch the guy.’ That doesn’t exist anymore, but that is a function of free speech. So we’ve gone way backwards in my book.”

The way forward, in McLean’s opinion, will be the result of a massive situation that forces people to utterly rethink everything — a huge economic depression, a confirmed UFO landing, who knows?

“That is when you might have something that will unite us.”

For now, though, McLean does maintain pride for the body of work he has produced.

“I’m now going to be 74 years old, and I look back on my life and I am very pleased. I think probably I could’ve done a little better, a little more, but I also could have done a hell of a lot worse and a lot less. The beautiful thing is to see these songs go from one generation to another. This is part of people’s lives. And I’m very pleased with that.”



Don McLean

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18

WHERE — Eureka Springs City Auditorium

COST — $45-$85; very limited tickets remain

INFO — 253-7788, theaud.org, donmclean.com

Categories: Music