There has always been music played in our home and our car. If we went on road trips, wither it be to visit family or just to explore the roads and byways music was pumping out of the car stereo – FM radio, CD, or tape in the case of our old Camry. One song that Tim loved was American Pie by Don McLean. The song is the story of McLean’s reaction to Buddy Holly’s death in an airplane crash and a history of how rock and roll music changed.
I told Tim how in late 1971 and through 1972, my childhood friends and I would sing the song while we played on the street. I told him how Buddy Holly might still be living if he hadn’t lost a coin toss to Waylon Jennings deciding who would fly in the ill-fated plane and who would ride in the tour bus. As Tim got older he picked on the symbology used in the song – not just the Catholic catechisms, how the soda shops and malt shops in the 1950’s actually did exist and juke boxes were a conduit to the forbidden music – that was innocent by today’s standards. But the song also told of the musicians changed the course of rock history following Buddy Holly’s death. He became interested in the Big Bopper and Richie Valens who died along with Holly that cold February night.
Buddy Holly was the first rock and roll musician to use violins in his music. His music influenced John Lennon who named his band the Beatles in homage to the Crickets – Holly’s band. Buddy Holly’s wife had a miscarriage shortly after Buddy Holly’s death. There was a revamp and growth in Folk music with Bob Dylan at the helm in the early 1960’s. There was a nationwide sadness and disillusionment in the United States following John F. Kennedy’s assassination until the Beatles landed, and through the same medium that won Kennedy the presidency in 1960 overtook and revamped rock and roll.
I pointed out events that McLean alluded to in his song – Bob Dylan using an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival and being booed off stage, The Byrds song “8 Miles High”, the Summer of Love in 1967, Woodstock, the Rolling Stones hiring Hell’s Angels as security for the Altamont where a concert goer was stabbed to death. How Mick Jagger is said to be both the Devil and Jack Flash when parts of lyrics are referenced in the song. The girl that sang the blues was Janice Joplin.
Don McLean was recently interviewed and confessed that American Pie was written in our hometown of Philadelphia and first preformed at Temple University. When we were asked for a list of Tim’s favorite songs to be used in a montage video for his viewing, American Pie was at the top of the list. On May 17, 2011, my music died; the course of what I had enjoyed with my son had been taken from us. Maybe one day I’ll go back to the sacred store and his sisters will take an interest in some of the music their brother loved and shared with me.