'American Pie' singer Don McLean hates modern music, says it makes him 'want to hang himself'

'[Music] does not exist... There's some form of music-like sound but it's not music'


                            'American Pie' singer Don McLean hates modern music, says it makes him 'want to hang himself'
Don McLean (Getty Images)

American Pie singer Don McLean hates modern music so much that, he says, it makes him "want to hang" himself.

McLean is most famous for his hit song 'American Pie' released in 1971. The song is an 8.5-minute commentary on everything from the loss of innocence that once defined the rock and roll generation, the turn from the light-hearted '50s to the darker, more volatile '60s, post-World War II American events including the murders of civil rights workers, and other major shifts in music and politics. It also refers to Elvis Presley as the 'king' and Bob Dylan, considered one of the most prolific and gifted songwriters, as the 'jester', something the latter took offense to.

The lyrics "the day the music died" is in reference to the death of Buddy Holly who, along with Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper died in a plane crash following a concert in 1959, and the song also makes reference to the death of Meredith Hunter at the Altamont Free Concert. In addition to weaving in various pop-culture references, McLean has also said The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album had a big influence on the creation of this song about "the day the music died."

And it appears all these decades later, McLean is singing the same song.

Don McLean attends 86th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 22, 2012 in New York City (Getty Images)

"[Music] does not exist – there's some form of music-like sound but it's not music," the 74-year-old says of modern music and songwriting in the Greatest Music of All Time podcast he recently featured in, adding "It's a single note or three or four notes repeated over again with a chorus that's drummed into your head or it makes you want to hang yourself."

Funnily enough, McLean had a very different view of modern music when his song 'American Pie' was turned into an electronica-dance number by Madonna in 2000. He called it "a gift from a goddess," and praised her version for being "sensual and mystical." When it comes to Ed Sheeran however, with whom he performed another one of his hit songs 'Vincent' which was written about painter Vincent Van Gogh, McLean says he's "might be better than Ed Sheeran."

McLean has also often refused to reveal the full meaning behind the lyrics of 'American Pie' though he has joked, when asked what the song meant to him personally, that "It means I don't ever have to work again if I don't want to." The singer has reportedly made $150 million in his career, and it wouldn't be surprising if most of that comes from the gift that keeps on giving - 'American Pie' - which McLean has had featured in multiple places including two commercials with Chevrolet.

Which for many makes this one of the most overplayed songs ever, despite also being one of the most beloved.

In a world that is at a total standstill thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, it shouldn't be surprising that the music people make comes from a place of simply wanting to express more abstract emotions as opposed to making more specific sociopolitical commentaries. The younger 'Gen Z' are known for their nihilistic worldviews and humor, and it stands to reason the music they listen to would be in the same vein.

If the world does get to a post-apocalyptic state and you find yourself surviving with little more than a radio that plays 'American Pie' on an eternal loop, though, which would run out faster—the batteries or you?

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