“Though it wasn’t originally planned that way, DON MCLEAN: STARRY, STARRY NIGHT, a concert special filmed in Austin, Texas, turned into a tribute to one of the most popular singer-songwriters in pop music history. The program, which also features superstar Garth Brooks and acclaimed singer Nanci Griffith, airs on PBS as part of the March 2000 pledge drive (check local listings). Surprisingly, it is McLean’s first television special – ever (Editor’s note: Nonsense. Don has had several TV specials!).
“I have done very little TV,” McLean admits. “I’m a live act, always have been. I’ve been constantly on tour for 30 years. But I think this is the most perfect project of mine, outside of an album orconcert, that I’ve ever done.”
Among the songs he reprises in front of 1,200 fans at Austin’s historic Paramount Theatre are some of his most popular, including “Vincent,” Roy Orbison’s “Crying” and “Castles in the Air.” Both Brooks and Griffith join him on the reprise of his classic “American Pie.”
Back in the summer of 1997, McLean performed at Brooks’ landmark Central Park concert; Brooks introduced him as his “idol” and had him close the show with “American Pie” (a staple
Brooks sings at his own concerts). But he also wanted to hear another McLean song, “Empty Chairs.” So he asked him to play it for him in his trailer backstage. “He recounts this story to the audience in Austin,” recalls McLean, “and all I could say was, ‘Now you’re the one who’s going to sing ‘Empty Chairs.’ He did, and he did a great job on it, too.”
Though the concert was the first time McLean had met Austin native Nanci Griffith, they each earned their first break at the legendary Cafe Lena in Saratoga, New York. In fact, at the Austin concert, Griffith presented McLean with a photograph she had taken of the cafe’s owner, Lena Spencer. For STARRY, STARRY NIGHT, Griffith sings a pair of duets with McLean: his hit “And I Love You So” and Buddy Holly’s “Raining in My Heart.”
In addition to performances, DON MCLEAN: STARRY, STARRY NIGHT includes photo montages of McLean’s career and interview excerpts. “There’s a life-spanning feel to it,” McLean says, noting that the program is dedicated to his parents.
Says producer Terry Lickona, a veteran of AUSTIN CITY LIMITS, “After 25 years in this business, it’s a thrill for me to get to work on a project like this with someone I consider the quintessential American singer-songwriter. I was amazed that this is Don’s first major television special. It’s an honor to be producing such an exceptional program. My goal, as always, is to create a comfortable environment where an artist can do what he does best – sing and play to an audience of adoring fans. This show captures the ultimate Don McLean in performance – it’s a must-see for all fans of great, original American music.”