The song American Pie was, despite its unusually long 8½ minutes, a big hit for Don McLean when he released it in 1971. It was a big hit in Sri Lanka too and I liked it a lot. The words were strange, lurching from one mental image to another seemingly with no connection, but I didn’t worry about it, just enjoying the bouncy beat. You can read the lyrics here or read it along with hearing the song below.
While I knew that the song took as its central theme the deaths in a plane crash on February 3, 1959 of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J. P. Richardson (known as The Big Bopper), no one I knew in Sri Lanka tried to decipher any deeper meanings to the words. I for one just found them zany and fun.
But Stephen Carter writes that there was apparently a lot of debate in the US by people trying to identify the hidden meanings in the words, while McLean kept a stony silence. You can read one attempt here by someone who has clearly put in a lot of thought and effort.
I am not sure why people seem to be so intent with finding hidden meanings, except on the general grounds that people like solving puzzles and riddles. Hidden meanings in songs and books seem to have a fascination for some, like trying to figure out the puzzles planted by James Joyce in his book Ulysses or who Carly Simon is referring to in her song You’re So Vain.
But apparently all the secrets will be revealed soon because Christie’s New York is going to auction off the original manuscript of American Pie on April 7 and it is expected to fetch over $1 million. At that time McLean supposedly has said that he will also reveal what the song is all about.