Home / WorldWide / “The Day the Music Died” & how it helped bring GR to life: Don McLean reflects on “American Pie”

“The Day the Music Died” & how it helped bring GR to life: Don McLean reflects on “American Pie”

Bye, bye, Miss American Pie. Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry. Them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye and singing ‘this’ll be the day that I die. This’ll be the day that I die.’” For five decades, people from different generations, countries and walks of life have been singing those world-famous lyrics, written and sung by Don McLean. Little did McLean know, his 1971 hit record influenced Grand Rapids in a major way, several decades later.

“Well, somebody said, you know, ‘there’s 5,000 people in Grand Rapids who’ve sung your song and it’s being seen by millions and millions of viewers,’” McLean recalled. “So I checked it out and I said, ‘I couldn’t believe it.’ It was like a Spielberg video for somebody. You know, it’s a tremendous video, just on its own, for the song. And they used a solo version. There’s no background musicians in that. It’s just me and guitar.” It may be hard to believe now, but more than a decade ago, in 2011, Newsweek named Grand Rapids “Most Boring City in America.”

Thousands of Grand Rapids community members joined in on the more than eight-minute-long video, which not only went viral, but also set a new world record for largest lip dub video. The May 22, 2011 grand production reportedly cost tens of thousands of dollars, included a major shutdown of downtown Grand Rapids and filled the streets with marching bands, motorcades and even some explosives. Fast forward to Friday, June 17, 2022. McLean brought his 50th anniversary tour behind “American Pie” to DeVos Performance Hall. Friday afternoon, Black Pigeon Studios invited McLean to reflect on his legacy and the influence “American Pie” had on the Grand Rapids community.

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