Verses explained Activities

Bye, bye, Miss American Pie

by Don McLean
Interpreted by Cindy Y Hwang

In Consert

Just music and lyrics

The entire song is a tribute to Buddy Holly and a commentary on how rock and roll changed in the years since his death. McLean seems to be lamenting the lack of "danceable" music in rock and roll and (in part) attributing that lack to the absence of Buddy Holly et. al.

Clicking on the key will link you to a page with interpretations of the lyrics. The marked verse will appear at the top of the page. Clicking on the key again will bring you back to this page to the corresponding verse.

(Verse 1)

A long, long time ago
I can still remember how That music used to make me smile. And I knew if I had my chance, That I could make those people dance, And maybe they'd be happy for a while. But February made me shiver, With every paper I'd deliver, Bad news on the doorstep... I couldn't take one more step. I can't remember if I cried When I read about his widowed bride But something touched me deep inside, The day the music died.


Bye bye Miss American Pie, Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry Them good ol' boys were drinkin whiskey and rye Singing "This'll be the day that I die, This'll be the day that I die."

(Verse 2)
Did you write the book of love, And do you have faith in God above, If the Bible tells you so? Now do you believe in rock 'n roll? Can music save your mortal soul? And can you teach me how to dance real slow? Well I know you're in love with him 'Cause I saw you dancing in the gym You both kicked off your shoes Man, I dig those rhythm 'n' blues I was a lonely teenage broncin' buck With a pink carnation and a pickup truck But I knew that I was out of luck The day the music died

I started singing...


(Verse 3)
Now for ten years we've been on our own And moss grows fat on a rolling stone But that's not how it used to be When the jester sang for the King and Queen In a coat he borrowed from James Dean And a voice that came from you and me Oh, and while the King was looking down The jester stole his thorny crown The courtroom was adjourned, No verdict was returned. And while Lennon read a book on Marx, The quartet practiced in the park And we sang dirges in the dark The day the music died.

We were singing...


(Verse 4)
Helter Skelter in a summer swelter The birds flew off with the fallout shelter Eight miles high and falling fast It landed foul on the grass The players tried for a forward pass With the jester on the sidelines in a cast Now the halftime air was sweet perfume While the sergeants played a marching tune We all got up to dance Oh, but we never got the chance 'Cause the players tried to take the field, The marching band refused to yield. Do you recall what was revealed, The day the music died?

We started singing


(Verse 5)

And there we were all in one place A generation lost in space With no time left to start again So Jack be nimble Jack be quick Jack flash sat on a candlestick 'Cause fire is the devil's only friend" And as I watched him on the stage My hands were clenched in fists of rage No angel born in hell Could break that satan's spell And as the flames climbed in high into the night To light the sacrificial rite I saw Satan laughing with delight The day the music died He was singing...


(Verse 6)

I met a girl who sang the blues And I asked her for some happy news But she just smiled and turned away I went down to the sacred store Where I'd heard the music years before But the man there said the music wouldn't play And in the streets the children screamed The lovers cried and the poets dreamed But not a word was spoken The church bells all were broken And the three men I admire most The Father Son and Holy Ghost They caught the last train for the coast The day the musid died

And they were singing...

(Refrain 2x)

Read the original text + the 'key' comments. You should also read the 'activities' part, and be well prepared for what you are expected to do at school.

One lesson
Organize 6 groups, one for each stanza. When you have split the differences concerning the choices, discuss the content of your stanza. Do you agree with Cindy Y Hwang (check the information on the net!), or do you have other ideas and opinions? You are supposed to comment on every 'key'!

Listen carefully to your stanza while checking the text. What can you say about the rhytm, rhyme, allitterations, etc., etc. ?
Do you think the text, meaning and music work well together ? Explain why!
What do you consider to be the theme of the song?
Will it be possible to imagine other themes? Put your heads together and make up at least a couple of other suggestions!

If you haven't finished what you were expected to do at school, do it at home.
There are a lot of people, music, etc. mentioned in the comments. Your group is supposed to choose one piece of music, find the text someplace (e.g. on the net!), play it in class and comment on it.

One lesson
Presentation of the homework. Each of the groups are supposed to present the chosen piece of music, and to play it. Time available = appr. 40 minutes / 6 (so hurry up!!)

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oppdatert 10.12.2015