An Analysis of “American Pie”

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American Pie” is an impressionistic ballad by Don Mclean which features unique and intriguing lyrics. It has imaginative changes in tempo, vocal delivery and instrumentation, and imparts a wide range of emotions ranging from pure joy, to melancholy and despair. The song takes the listener on an autobiographical journey through the turbulent 1960’s with references to the events that shaped the era. Don Mclean was enshrined in the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2004 for his work on “American Pie” (Don McLean: Songwriters Hall of Fame Inauguration). With its use of formal structure, allusions, and figurative language, the song, “American Pie”, has many poetic qualities. The formal structure of “American Pie” allows Don Mclean to use multiple combinations of rhymes. The end rhymes are the most apparent rhymes in the song and follow a rather simple pattern that one can hear right away. A good example of end rhyme would be the start of the second verse when Don Mclean writes, “Did you write the book of love, and do you believe in God above”. “An interesting fact about the song “American Pie” is with the exception of the chorus and the refrain verses, the last line of every verse is the same: “The day the music died” (Damsker 42 – 45). It is the only line in the entire song that does not have a matching end rhyme in the same verse. In addition to the use of end rhyme Don Mclean made use of internal rhyme in the lyrics of his song, “American Pie”. The most obvious use of internal rhyme is in the chorus. One hears “Bye, Bye” and “pie” along with “Chevy” and “levee”. Another example of internal rhyme occurs in the fourth verse when Mclean writes “Helter skelter in a summer swelter. The birds flew off with a fallout shelter”. In this verse... ... middle of paper ... ...uman with human qualities. Mclean personifies music in the last line of each verse when he writes, “The day the music died”. Music is not human therefore it cannot die. In conclusion, the song “American Pie” represents great poetry because of its use of formal structure, allusions, and figurative language. The songs power comes solely from the words that Don Mclean writes. Each time one listens to this song they are reminded of a time when music was quite fine. Works Cited Damsker, Matt. Rock Voices: The Best Lyrics of an Era. New York: St. Martin's, 1980, Pages 42 – 45. “Don McLean: Songwriters’ Hall of Fame Inauguration”, Howard, Alan & McLean, Don, “Songwriters’ Hall of Fame Inauguration, 2004”, Don McLean Online: The Official Website of Don McLean and American Pie, “” October 21, 2010.
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