Most artists would kill to have one of their songs be a hit in the sense their tune enjoys popularity for a little while. Most could never fathom having a career like Don McLean, who unknowingly wrote a song that helped define a generation scarred by the events of a fateful February day in 1959 that saw three of music's biggest artists at the time killed in a plane crash.

Don McLean's "American Pie" doesn't need an introduction, but I'll give it one anyway. It's one of the most powerfully moving ballads you're likely ever to hear, and its cryptic yet vivid lyrics have been the subject of intense debate with decades. For the most part, McLean has either removed himself from the discourse, or given faint context as to what they mean. That's part of the beauty of music. When it's at its best, it doubles as divine poetry.

Photo Credit: Time Life + Don McLean
Photo Credit: Time Life + Don McLean

But McLean is far from done. In fact, he's got a new album of entirely new material coming out this Friday, May 17th, 2024. I was fortunate enough to chat with McLean about his new album, American Boys and his career; of course, I couldn't help but inquire about that "Weird Al" Yankovic parody of "American Pie" that you might know as well as the original itself.

The song titles of McLean's American Boys themselves practically leap off the page with power: "Stone Cold Gangster," "The Meanest Girl," "Vacant Luxury." Probably the one that stands out the most, from its title alone, is "The Ballad of George Floyd," which McLean, someone who doesn't routinely venture into current events, spoke about in our interview.

Beyond that, McLean takes great pride in knowing and reminding people that rock and roll was invented by Americans, which is where his latest album gets its title (and its titular song). While the English movement in rock music is still alive today, and has presented us with innumerable contributions to a genre we know and love, it was Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and other legends who pioneered the sounds we still enjoy today.

It's probably impossible to ask McLean a question about "American Pie" he's never been asked before, so I decided to ask him his favorite use of the song in a movie or TV show. Of all works, he picked Madonna's 2000 film The Next Best Thing, where she covered the song and gave it a new dance-pop sound.

Take a listen to my interview with Don McLean below, and look for his new album, American Boys, in stores and on various streaming platforms on Friday, May 17th:

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