Wave Wire Services
HOLLYWOOD — Singer Don McLean received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Aug. 16 in connection with the 50th anniversary of “American Pie.”
McLean was all smiles at the ceremony on Hollywood Boulevard in front of the Pie Hole, which changed the name of its “Mom’s Apple Crumble” to “American Pie” for the day.
“I’ve had some wonderful experiences,” McLean told the cheering crowd as he accepted the honor.
The ceremony also included an appearance by Grammy-winning song parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic and a performance of “American Pie” by the country a cappella group Home Free. Yankovic wrote and performed a “Star Wars”-inspired parody of “American Pie,” “The Saga Begins,” in 1999.
“Thankfully, Don McLean has a fantastic sense of humor and he very graciously gave his blessing on my parody,” Yankovic said.
McLean and Home Free recorded an a cappella version of “American Pie” that was released Jan. 29. McLean has said he first performed “American Pie” at Temple University on March 14, 1971, when he opened for Laura Nyro. He recorded it on May 26, 1971, as part of his second album, also titled “American Pie.” It began being played on the radio one month later and released as a single in November 1971.
In a 2017 interview with the Library of Congress in connection with “American Pie” being added to the National Recording Registry as being “culturally, historically, or artistically significant,” McLean said he wanted to write a song about America but not have it be ‘This Land Is Your Land’ or ‘America, the Beautiful.’”
“I was thinking about the size of America, but not about any one thing,” McLean said. “I had a theory in my head that music and politics were parallel and moved forward. That’s how I thought it out, and I thought, ‘That’s a cool idea.’”
In 2015, when the working manuscript for “American Pie” went up for auction at Christie’s, McLean described the song as “an indescribable photograph of America that I tried to capture in words and music.”
“Other honors for “American Pie” including placing fifth on the “Songs of the Century” list compiled by the Recording Industry of America and National Endowment for the Arts and being inducted in 2002 to the Grammy Hall of Fame, which honors recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance.
Born Oct. 2, 1945 in New Rochelle, New York McLean developed an interest in all forms of music by age 5 and would spend hours listening to the radio and his father’s records.
As a teenager he purchased his first guitar (a Harmony F Hole with a sunburst finish) and took opera lessons paid for by his sister. Those lessons combined with many hours in the swimming pool, helped McLean develop breath control, which would later allow him to sing long, continuous phrases in songs such as “Crying” without taking a breath.
The exercise also meant his asthma, which forced him to miss long periods of school as a child, improved.
After attending Villanova University for four months in 1963, McLean began a six-year run of performing in clubs in New York City, Washington and Philadelphia, along with two in the Los Angeles area — the Troubadour and the Ash Grove.
McLean recorded his first album, “Tapestry” in 1969.
McLean’s other memorable songs include “And I Love You So,” “Vincent” and “Castles in the Air.”