6: American Pie – Don McLean

NeilTop 30 - Songs Of The 1970s

Entered Top 40s: 2 March 1971
Entry Point: 33
Highest Chart: 1
Weeks In: 20
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Well to start us off, let’s consider the achievement of this song making it to number one when three minutes songs were all the rage. Granted a shorter version of the song was recorded and released but the 8+ minute epic was the one that everyone prefers to listen to. In 1971, songs had to be exceptional if there were any longer than three minutes and some seconds – this is two and a half times that length.

Everyone has a theory on what the song means and who the people are that referenced in the song. There is no doubt – McLean acknowledges this fact – that the day the music died refers to 3 February 1959, the day on which Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and JP Richardson (The Big Bopper), along with their pilot Roger Peterson, were killed in a plane crash.

Don McLean has often been asked what the song means and he has steadfastly refused to be drawn beyond “it means that I’ll never have to work again”. He says that it’s poetry and that poetry should not be explained by its author.

It is an epic (the second longest song in the countdown) and is generally regarded as one of the great songs of the decade. I say the sixth best!