Studio 360

Inside the National Recording Registry: “American Pie”

The song where everyone knows the words, but few know what those words mean.

Don McLean smiling, holding a guitar, sitting on grass.
Don McLean poses for a promotional photo in 1971.

Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

Listen to this episode of Studio 360 by clicking the arrow on the audio player below:

It was late in 1971 when the singer-songwriter Don McLean released his song “American Pie.” Today, everybody still seems to know all the words … but nobody seems to know what those words really mean.

Who is the “jester [who] sang for the king and queen/ In a coat he borrowed from James Dean?” And what was it that “touched [the singer] deep inside/ The day the music died”?

Don McLean himself helps break down the song, along with author Raymond I. Schuck. Then, singer Garth Brooks talks about his love for the song and about performing it onstage with McLean.

“American Pie” was recently chosen by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry.

This podcast was produced by Jennie Cataldo/BMP Audio.

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