The Day the Music Died

Here I am…week one of my new goal to write and day-the-music-died-rem_thumbupdate. Are you here too? Please comment so I get a little more motivation than my own sheer will — because we all know that doesn’t last that long!

As I was pondering what topic I wanted to muse on today, I plugged in my headphones and selected some random playlists on my iTunes to possibly spark a moment of brilliance. After a few hours of some mindless computer work in the office, I found myself listening to one of my favorite songs — “American Pie,” by Don McLean. Now, some of you may think I’m not old enough to know this tune, but I would like to point out that a lover of music tends to know quintessential melodies and lyrics from eras past because time has this magical property where it seems to influence the future. Take, for instance, my own father. He grew up singing and playing the guitar, enjoying the contemporary hits of the 1950s and ’60s. He shared those with me as a kid and I loved them as well; I was the kid listening to Simon & Garfunkel, Bread, The Beatles, and Peter, Paul, & Mary. I had records, not CDs, until I was a teenager. When I first heard “American Pie” I remember a few significant things… #1 It was a long song. Clocking in at over 8 minutes, I didn’t know too many other songs (at that time) that went on like this one. #2 It mentioned “The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” Being brought up in a very religious household, I found this lyric to be particularly unusual; not because it was a religious reference, but rather because I hadn’t heard many song use “Holy Ghost.” In my faith, that’s a word that I considered part of a unique lexicon and not something I would have expected to hear in a pop song. When I asked my Dad about it, I remember him telling me that the song had more than just a literal meaning. Which brings me to #3 — I couldn’t understand at that young age how music could die. Nowadays, I could give you a lesson on symbolism, allegory, inference, allusion, metaphor, and abstract nouns, but at the time it didn’t quite make sense. Sometimes things just don’t make sense…

As I went on to study music and try writing my own songs, I came to appreciate the lyrics of “American Pie” even more. The tribute to three fallen musical geniuses; the collective heartbreak of a nation; the strength of national pride; the creativity of nuanced meaning. All of these and more still affect me when I listen to this emotional anthem of a lost generation.   On February 3, 1959, a small plane crashed in Iowa carrying rising musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. Not only is the story of the situation tragic itself, it’s tragic so much potential influence was lost. As a musician myself, this is an event that has had an impact on me. As McLean so eloquently states, it’s “The Day the Music Died.”

More time has passed and I’ve come to revere these lost musicians, and Don McLean himself, even more. Music is a powerful force. It courses through me with an almost tangible quality. So, to honor the awesome power of music I challenge you to share the song in your heart with someone today, tomorrow, and everyday. I share this one with you in the hopes that the “Day the Music Died” can influence others to live life to it’s fullest and to share their talents with the world.

…So bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey in Rye
Singin’ “This’ll be the day that I die
This’ll be the day that I die.”

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