Since first hitting the charts in 1971, Don McLean has amassed over 40 gold and platinum records worldwide and in 2004 was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. “American Pie” was voted number 5 in a poll of the 365 “Songs of the Century” compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. His second single,“Vincent,” was another massive hit for Don McLean and solidified his status as an iconic singer-songwriter.
Don McLean’s love of music was apparent since an early age. He spent hours listening to the radio and his parent’s record collection, and bought his first guitar as a teenager. He was steeped in the Folk music of the early ‘60s and set his sights on becoming part of the movement.
While at Villanova University in 1963, he became friends with Jim Croce. After leaving Villanova he began a six-year period performing at venues like the Bitter End and Gaslight Café in New York, the Newport Folk Festival, the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., the Main Point in Philadelphia, the Troubadour and Ash Grove in Los Angeles and over forty colleges throughout New York and New England. He appeared alongside artists like Herbie Mann, Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry, Melanie, Steppenwolf, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Janis Ian, Josh White, Ten Wheel Drive and others.
As a member of the first crew of the Sloop Clearwater, Don McLean traveled the Atlantic seaboard with Peter Seeger giving concerts at each port and gaining news coverage wherever they went.
In 1969, Don recorded his first album, Tapestry, in Berkeley, CA. The student riots were going on outside the studio door as Don was singing “And I Love You So” inside. The transition to international stardom began in 1971 with the release of “American Pie.” Interest from the media and public sent the single to #1 in the U.S.and Don to international super stardom. Don refused to sanction any of the many interpretations, simply adding to its mystery.
His second single, “Vincent,” became an instant hit. In the wake of “American Pie” and “Vincent,” Don McLean became a major concert attraction. The years spent playing gigs in small clubs and coffee houses in the ‘60s paid off in his well-paced performances.Throughout the ’70s, Don McLean remained an in-demand concert performer.
Don McLean credits his 1997 performance of “American Pie” at Garth Brooks’ Central Park concert (attended by over 500,000 people) as the beginning of his third career comeback. According to Don, his first “comeback” had been the release of “Vincent” and the second, the North American release and success of Roy Orbison’s “Crying.”
The 21st Century has seen a number of new honors for Don McLean and his music. He received an honorary doctorate from Iona College 2001 and, in 2002, “American Pie” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2004, Don McLean was inaugurated into the National Academy of Popular Music Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.