About the Songwriter



I created Understanding AMERICAN PIE as an exercise in web design, little realizing how much work would be involved in the actual writing of it. Exploring the internet as frequently as I do, I saw that even after 30 years many questions still remained about the meaning of this enigmatic song. By far the biggest error I noticed in most approaches to interpreting American Pie was the lack of a better grounding in the historical conditions that had inspired it, often producing, to my mind at least, some fairly problematic interpretations. An essential bit of deductive reasoning—move from the general to the specific—seemed warranted here: identify the song's central theme first, and the rest should fall into place. More or less.

In my own approach to understanding American Pie, I tried as much as possible to discern what the songwriter had most likely intended when he wrote it, relying on the few comments Don McLean himself has made about American Pie over the years to better support my interpretation. I also tried to avoid some of the errors that seemed to get passed down and accepted as gospel: a good example of this can be found in verse 5, where many interpretations have mistakenly assigned the setting of this verse to the Woodstock Music Festival, when the lyrics much more accurately reflect the events that occurred at Altamont a few months later. Another more glaring example can be found in the chorus, as "American Pie" was never the name of the airplane that Buddy Holly died in (see the songwriter's comments here), but which remains a persistent rumor that only serves to further obscure the song's meaning.

My primary sources for this interpretation were David Halberstam's The Fifties, Ronald J.Oakley's God's Country: America in the Fifties, John C.McWilliams' The 1960s Cultural Revolution, and Todd Gitlin's The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage. I've tried to be as accurate as possible, but if any historical errors do occur to anyone, I can be reached by e-mail , and would very much like to hear from you.

Jim FannBorn and raised in the United States, I'm originally from the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C.. In my more innocent years I majored in English at the University of Maryland, and worked for many years afterwards as a corporate chauffeur in the D.C. area. I currently work out of my home in Norfolk, VA. as a graphic and web designer for Smithcraft, a small design company based in Florida.

So now you're on to me. Hope you enjoy the site!

Jim Fann
November, 2002