Famed for — and ultimately defined by — his perennial “American Pie,” singer/songwriter Don McLean was born October 2, 1945, in New Rochelle, New York. After getting his start in the folk clubs of New York City during the mid-’60s, McLean struggled for a number of years, building a small following through his work with Pete Seeger on the Clearwater, a sloop that sailed up and down the eastern seaboard to promote environmental causes.
Still, McLean was primarily singing in elementary schools and the like when, in 1970, he wrote a musical tribute to painter Vincent Van Gogh; the project was roundly rejected by a number of labels, although MediaArts did offer him a contract to record a number of his other songs under the title Tapestry. The album fared poorly, but Perry Como earned a hit with a cover of the track “And I Love You So,” prompting United Artists to pick up McLean’s contract. He returned in 1971 with American Pie; the title track, an elegiac eight-and-a-half-minute folk-pop epic inspired by the tragic death of Buddy Holly, became a number one hit, and the LP soon reached the top of the charts as well.
The follow-up, “Vincent,” was also a smash, and McLean even became the subject of the Roberta Flack hit “Killing Me Softly with His Song”; however, to his credit — and to his label’s horror — the singer refused to let the success of “American Pie” straitjacket his career. Subsequent records like 1972’s self-titled effort and 1974’s Playin’ Favorites deliberately avoided any attempts to re-create the “American Pie” flavor; not surprisingly, his sales plummeted, and the latter release even failed to chart. After 1974’s Homeless Brother and 1976’s Solo, United Artists dropped McLean from his contract; he resurfaced on Arista the next year with Prime Time, but when it, too, fared poorly, he spent the next several years without a label.
McLean enjoyed a renaissance of sorts with 1980’s Chain Lightning; his first Top 30 LP in close to a decade, it spawned a Top Ten smash with its cover of Roy Orbison’s classic “Crying,” and his originals “Castles in the Air” and “Since I Don’t Have You” both also reached the Top 40. However, 1981’s Believers failed to sustain the comeback, and after 1983’s Dominion, he was again left without benefit of label support. McLean spent the remainder of his career primarily on the road, grudgingly restoring “American Pie” to his set list and drawing inspiration from the country market; in addition to a number of live sets and re-recordings of old favorites, he also returned to the studio for projects like 1990’s For the Memories (a collection of classic pop, country, and jazz covers) and 1995’s River of Love (an LP of original material). (by Jason Ankeny)
And here´s a great broadrecording from 1975:
The shutdown of Megaupload; and other cyberlockers such as Filesonic and Fileserve becoming pale shadows of what they once were, music fans will once again recall the immortal words of Don McLean.
But the lyrics to McLean’s Bronco Bill’s Lament are no less poignant and apt for these times:
Well you may not recognize my face, I used to be a star,
A cowboy hero known both near and far.
I perched upon a silver mount and sang with my guitar,
But the studio of course,
owned my saddle and my horse…
All the voyeurs and the lawyers who can pull a fountain pen,
And put you where they choose,
With the language that they use,
And enslave you till you work your youth away,
Oh god how I worked my youth away.
Thanks to Otto who shared these tracks on the net in 2010.
Recorded live at The Hardrock Concert Theatre, Manchester, UK; May 25, 1975;
Excellent FM broadcast.
Don McLean (guitar, vocals, banjo)
01. Bronco Bill’s Lament 3.22
02. Empty Chairs 3.38
03. La La Love You 4.25
04. American Pie 10.03
05. Homeless Brother 4.16
06. Respectable 4.04
07. The Legend Of Andrew McCrew 6.20
08. Babylon 5.00
09. This Little Light Of Mine 2.58
10. Vincent 4.04
All songs written by DonMcLean