Song Lyric Sunday — A Long, Long Time Ago

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday prompt, Jim Adams has given us “long,” “short,” “small,” and “tall” as our themes. Just the other day in one of Rory’s Random Questions posts, he asked about something that touched me in a deep way. And the song “American Pie” from Don McLean, which is based on an event that took place a long time ago, did just that, so I included a video of the song in my response. That specific video is included later in this post.

“American Pie” was a song by American singer and songwriter Don McLean. Recorded and released on the American Pie album in 1971, the single was the number one U.S. hit for four weeks in 1972.

The repeatedly mentioned phrase “the day the music died” refers to February 3, 1959, when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash after a concert. McClean said that he loved Buddy Holly’s music and that Holly’s death was, to McClean, a personal tragedy. He said, “When that whole crash happened, it was a real ache in my heart. So, I ended up bringing back all those memories of 1959 and the things that happened later.” McLean’s description — the day the music died — eventually became the popular name for the plane crash.

McLean said that he wanted to write a big song about America and about politics, but to do it in a different way. He was fiddling around, and started singing this thing about the Buddy Holly crash. What came out was, “A long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile.”

The meaning of the song’s other lyrics have long been debated, and for decades and McLean declined to explain the symbolism behind the many characters and events mentioned. He eventually released his songwriting notes in 2015, explaining many of the symbols in the lyrics. The overall theme of the song is the loss of innocence of the early rock and roll generation as symbolized by the plane crash that claimed the lives of three of its heroes and various other events over the course of the 1960s.

When I saw this video below, which attempts to put images to the references McLean made in the song, I was deeply touched. As someone who grew up in the “American Pie” era, the song actually brought tears to my eyes as I listened and watched. And it made me sad to think of about the shape of politics in America today.

Here are the lyrics to “American Pie.”

A long long time ago
I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
So

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Did you write the book of love
And do you have faith in God above
If the Bible tells you so?
Do you believe in rock and roll?
Can music save your mortal soul?
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

Well, I know that you’re in love with him
‘Cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym
You both kicked off your shoes
Man, I dig those rhythm and blues

I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck
With a pink carnation and a pickup truck
But I knew I was out of luck
The day the music died
I started singin’

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Now, for ten years we’ve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rolling stone
But, that’s not how it used to be

When the jester sang for the king and queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean
And a voice that came from you and me

Oh and while the king was looking down
The jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned
No verdict was returned

And while Lennon read a book on Marx
The quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark
The day the music died
We were singin’

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
And singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Helter skelter in a summer swelter
The birds flew off with a fallout shelter
Eight miles high and falling fast

It landed foul on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast

Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance
Oh, but we never got the chance

‘Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?
We started singin’

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
And singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

Oh, and there we were all in one place
A generation lost in space
With no time left to start again

So come on Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack Flash sat on a candlestick
‘Cause fire is the devil’s only friend

Oh and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan’s spell

And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died
He was singin’

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away

I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play

And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken

And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
And they were singing

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die

They were singing
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die

25 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — A Long, Long Time Ago

  1. SadiRose February 21, 2021 / 3:22 am

    A lot of memories with this song. I remember playing my 8 track tape over and over listening to this song.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango February 21, 2021 / 2:33 pm

      It was the kind of song that you needed to hear over and over.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Christine Bolton, Poetry for Healing February 21, 2021 / 5:01 am

    This was really a wonderful post Fan. I loved the second video with all the news clips and can understand your sentiments. We lived through a time of innocence for a while and then the inevitable change or renaissance as I like to call it. It was a time for standing up for what was right and denouncing all that was wrong with our society. I believe we came a long way until 5 years ago when we actually went backwards 😦. Thank goodness we turned around again! The song has become iconic and one I never get tired of hearing. Thanks for the great share ☺️👍

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango February 21, 2021 / 2:35 pm

      I’m so glad you liked it and I truly hope that things have, indeed, turned around.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Liz BlackX February 21, 2021 / 5:12 am

    Thanks for this post. I knew the song, but I had no idea about the backstory.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. K.Hartless February 21, 2021 / 6:19 am

    So many great lines in this song. Moss grows fat on a rolling stone. Fire is the devil’s only friend. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. newepicauthor February 21, 2021 / 7:23 am

    February made me shiver, well until I moved to Florida where it is still hot in February. Great choice Fandango.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. J-Dub February 21, 2021 / 8:35 am

    Great share today! That second video was primo! History memorialized.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lisa Coleman February 21, 2021 / 8:51 am

    I get chills every time I hear this song because of the meaning behind. Every time we have lost a great artist, these lyrics ring true. The second video was very well done and I enjoyed it greatly! Thanks for sharing such an iconic song this week. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. RuthScribbles February 21, 2021 / 5:14 pm

    Oh oh oh. The was a favorite of mine.

    From the app, I clicked the web icon, then hit the second one and I could tell I was logged in because the following button was activated. Then I liked this post and now I’m commenting! (I just found there was another update of the app.) did they fix it? Or is this a fluke?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango February 21, 2021 / 11:05 pm

      No, I just tried to like a post where the blogger’s address doesn’t have “wordpress.com” in it and I still can’t. And this is after the latest update was installed. 🙁

      Like

      • RuthScribbles February 22, 2021 / 7:23 am

        I’m using DuckDuckGo. I’m signed in to WordPress in the browser. Then I went to your post, I clicked the top internet icon— it doesn’t work there… I clicked the bottom internet icon and like magic! It worked every time after I posted to you.

        Liked by 1 person

          • RuthScribbles February 22, 2021 / 4:45 pm

            It is better privacy. I’m learning more about it. But made it my default.

            Liked by 1 person

  9. leigha66 February 24, 2021 / 1:01 am

    I have always loved this song and that video was amazing! I knew the basic meaning of the song, but had no idea about all the other pop culture references throughout it. Did you know Don did a remake of the song just recently with an a cappella group Home Free… here’s a link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RlTZdYXcKg

    Liked by 1 person

  10. aisasami February 27, 2021 / 11:30 pm

    I had a friend in high school who loved this song A LOT. She was born in 1991 and loved this song. I think even met Don. I just remember how much her face turned red with anger when she heard Madonna’s version. She still rants about the remake to this day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango February 28, 2021 / 11:04 am

      Some remakes should never have been remade.

      Like

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