Even those that don’t like Don McLean’s tune “American Pie” should admit that it’s a distinctive popular culture achievement. An almost eight-and-a-half minute allegory that goes from mournful to infectious to mournful once more, the monster 1971 radio hit is seemingly recognized to all generations and nonetheless sung at bar-closing instances the world over.
That final reality is in response to this reverent documentary about the tune. Directed by Mark Moormann, the film travels throughout America to deliver residence the concept that “American Pie” says one thing profound about the nation. It interweaves McLean’s biography with an account of the final days of the ’50s rockers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, creating a compelling narrative about the impact the aircraft crash that took their lives in 1959 had not simply on younger McLean, however American music itself. The film then alternates with a historical past of McLean’s skilled profession (together with his mentoring by the people legend Pete Seeger) and scenes by which stars together with Garth Brooks rhapsodize about the tune.
Back in the day, youngsters analyzing the lyrics surmised that the bits about “the devil” expressed McLean’s ethical and aesthetic disapproval of Mick Jagger. But to many of the interviewees right here, together with Brooks (who introduced McLean onstage to sing it with him at his big Central Park live performance in 1997) and the Cuban-born musical artist Rudy Pérez, the tune is “about freedom.”
The film actually comes alive when it’s recreating the recording session for the tune, displaying how the ace studio keyboardist Paul Griffin reworked the tune together with his energetic gospel-style piano.
McLean, who has regularly been portrayed as a prickly figure, and worse, places on his most ingratiating mien right here. And why not. Few musicians are given such beneficiant alternatives to be docent to their legacies.
The Day the Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes. Watch on Paramount+.