Sometimes you have to resign yourself to the fact that some people and songs get famous because they are just that damn good. I think anyone that finds this blog will know this song. What you might not be aware of is how extraordinary Don McLean was as a performer. Take notes – this is masterclass.
I became aware of this video a couple of years ago. When I came across it, I was worried that I might be disappointed. This song is larger than life and the recording is drilled into my brain. I could only hope that the performance didn’t suffer from too much showmanship or worse, that real life just isn’t as good as production can make it. I’m so glad this video exists. Of course, it’s remarkably entertaining, but for the record’s sake, it shows how profoundly good Don McLean’s voice was. Amazing. When he hits the higher notes, it feels both powerful and effortless at the same time. The other part of this is how he engages the audience without limiting the song. This song uses a very old repeated verse-chorus form. No bridge, no extra parts. But he builds it with the audience. Then, he draws it way back to a spiritual level before booming out the last choruses. Such control.
This is a live performance of the song American Pie taped about a year after it was released. It’s fun to track all the little things done over the course of the performance that differ from the recording. Little guitar riffs, to embellished vocal lines, to his singing harmony to the crowd’s melody. Every drop of energy felt in that room is used. Nothing wasted. What a great video.