The title track from his 1971 second studio album, the song is still widely regarded as a classic after 49 years, but McLean isn’t entirely able to explain its popularity.
“I don’t know. There are so many aspects to it,” he told Rather. “You’ll see different parts of it used all over. People use it for parodies, kids sing it, children grow up with it because on a certain level it’s a children’s song…It’s one of these sort of mythical type folk songs. The poetry is a little bit obscure, but it’s not completely unknowable — it’s pretty understandable. It’s meant to be because it’s really a dream.”
Rather suggested to McLean that many saw “American Pie” as a metaphor for the decline of U.S. culture after the Sixties.
“I was seeing that,” McLean said. “To me, when Kennedy was killed, all bets were off. It was a much bigger event than 9/11, which was a huge event. It was the beginning of Americans being in doubt about what they believed in and who they were. That was huge.”
The full interview with McLean will be broadcast Wednesday (May 20th) on AXS TV at 8:00 p.m. ET.