The Student Voice of North Allegheny Senior High School

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The Student Voice of North Allegheny Senior High School

The Uproar

The Student Voice of North Allegheny Senior High School

The Uproar

50 Years of American Pie

Sometimes referred to as the “American Troubadour,” Don McLean celebrated 50 years of his most famous album, American Pie, with Pittsburgh last Friday night.
Ava DiGiacomo
Don McLean at the Carnegie Library of Homestead on Friday, November 10th.

On Friday, November 10, Pittsburgh joined folk rock artist Don McLean at the Carnegie Library of Homestead to celebrate 50 years of his album. Reaching the number one spot on the Billboard 200 upon its debut , the 1971 album is loved by millions all over the world. 

McLean took the stage at 8:00 p.m., joined by an array of renowned musicians. On piano was Tony Migliore, joined by Kerry Marx and Vip Vipperman on guitar, Dave Francis on bass, and John McGee on drums. Throughout the night, the band consistently delivered a clear sound that perfectly complemented McLean’s voice— delivering a perfect blend of artist and accompaniment that gave the songs the presentation they deserved. 

To start the night, McLean opened with a new single of his known, “Truth and Fame.” The song is on his new album American Boys that will be released in February of 2024. This insightful track delivered the message of the importance of staying in touch with the authentic ebbs and flows of life even while riding the wave of fame. 

McLean then shifted into his 2018 album Botanical Gardens, while blessing the audience with the title track. The song paints a picturesque scene of McLean lost both in the Sydney Botanical Gardens and in his mind as he dreams of the girl that he loves.

The next song — “Fool’s Paradise”— was one of the most touching moments of the night. McLean sang a cover of “Fool’s Paradise,” which is originally written by Buddy Holly. While McLean covered several artists’ songs throughout the night, his tribute to Holly was a further nod to his respect for and admiration of the late singer, whom the hit song “American Pie” was written about and the LP dedicated to. 

McLean then sang the ballad “Jerusalem.” As a Catholic, McLean spent a brief period of time in Jerusalem which proved to be very impactful. Living there from 1978-1982, McLean developed a deep connection with the holy city and wrote this song for then-President Yitzhak Navon and then-mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek.

“Dreidel,” the 1972 song, was McLean’s next number, followed by the tear-jerker “Crossroads.” Migliore and McLean joined each other in a beautiful rendition of the journey of losing oneself and returning back to one’s origins. 

The spotlight then shifted to Vip Vipperman on his bright green Fender electric as he delivered an impressive solo performance of the slide guitar piece “SleepWalk” by Santo and Johnny Farina.

‘The next hit was McLean’s “And I Love You So” from his premiere album Tapestry. The beautiful ballad was not only loved by his fans, but also by Elvis Presley. According to McLean, Presley sang the song every night during the last year of his tour. McLean begins this number as a sweet love song that he eventually transforms into a passionate thanks as he attributes regaining a sense of life’s meaning to his lover. This shift in intent was displayed perfectly with the inclusion of a drum interlude by John McGee halfway through the song, which ended up sustaining until the end.

McLean then took a break from singing as he talked with the audience about the importance of music in his life while insisting the necessity of preserving live music. He shared with the audience his hopes of stripped down talent being preserved in the live-music industry. 

McLean jumped back into performance with his famous cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” managing to convey the desperate wail of the song while simultaneously maintaining his smooth, folky voice. 

The next song, “Monongahela Sal” was another cover originally sung by Peter Seeger— a leader of the rise of American folk in the 1950s.

The few notes following the end of “Monongahela Sal” sent the crowd into roaring excitement. “Vincent,” a song about the famous melancholy painter Vincent van Gogh, is a heart-wrenching song that has touched the hearts of millions over the world. McLean performed the song solo, his audience enraptured.

The show then shifted from the scenes of the starry, starry night to the dreary cities of “Castles in the Air,” a song of a man whom city life had gotten the best of. Moving to the suburbs (his “castle”), the subject finds relief in his new lifestyle, which is sonically represented by a smooth jazz undertone. 

Don then switched to a more serious tone with his new song “The Ballad of George Floyd.” While a majority of McLean’s music is not political, he told the audience he“wrote a song that needed to be written.” 

Nearing the end of the night, McLean pulled out some of his upbeat fan favorites as he fed off the energy in the crowd, jamming out to the electric “American Boys” before transitioning to the Johnny Cash hit “Folsom Prison Blues.” 

Giving the audience essentially no time to process the splendor they just witnessed, McLean sped into the song the crowd had been anticipating the entire night. 

“A long, long time ago…” The crowd erupted in cheers. McLean carried out the eight-and-a-half minute song for over 12 minutes, as the crowd simply refused to stop singing.

At the end of the night, McLean thanked his fans for a night to remember, and attendees walked out of the theater with smiles on their faces and the chorus of “American Pie” replaying in their minds. The legendary singer had held the audience’s attention for two hours, relying simply on his voice, story-telling skills, and a handful of immensely talented musicians.

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About the Contributor
Ava DiGiacomo, Opinions Editor
This is Ava's second year writing for the NASH Uproar. She loves writing about her passions and is looking forward to being the Opinions editor. When she is not writing, she spends her times doing work for NA For Change and hanging with friends or listening to music.

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