“American Pie” manuscript sold for $1.2m

auction

“For more than 40 years I have rambled around every state of the union and many, many countries of the world. My primary interests in life have been America, singing, songwriting, and the English language. I love the English language as much as anything in life and words really do mean something. I thought it would be interesting as I reach age 70 to release this work product on the song American Pie so that anyone who might be interested will learn that this song was not a parlor game. It was an indescribable photograph of America that I tried to capture in words and music and then was fortunate enough through the help of others to make a successful recording. I would say to young songwriters who are starting out to immerse yourself in beautiful music and beautiful lyrics and think about every word you say in a song.” Don McLean, Feb 13, 2015.

On April 7 2015, Don McLean’s original working manuscript for “American Pie” sold for $1,205,000 (£809,524/€1,109,182) at Christies’ auction rooms, New York, making it the third highest auction price achieved for an American literary manuscript.

13 thoughts on ““American Pie” manuscript sold for $1.2m

    • Hi Sue
      I have heard Don sing ‘fawcet’ on live versions but my original 1972 (UK) vinyl version of Tapestry says ‘bathroom’ presumably on the basis that some UK listeners would not recognise the word ‘fawcet’. The equivalent British word (tap) obviously wouldn’t scan so it became ‘bathroom’.

      I had assumed this change was made only on UK versions but I think any recent CD releases come from the UK market so may have wider release.

      • Bill,
        I have an original USA Mediarts vinyl LP which is marked “Not For Sale, For Promotion Only”, I bought it in New York a long time ago. (Or should I say a long long time ago). Included with the record is a two page pull-out , very well made, which has the lyrics to the songs and some great photos of Don. It is in black and white. I don’t have the British version of the Tapestry LP in vinyl so it may have been exactly the same.
        The US version says “bathroom” so I have always thought that was the original lyric. Don has always played around with words in live performances as you well know.
        The word fawcet is an American corruption of the English word faucet. In Scotland you and I would have called it the spicket (corruption of spigot). In any event I suspect “faucet” crept in in live performances.

      • I haven’t had a chance to check my vinyl copy as it is in London. It certainly has a liner sheet with lyrics and pictures of Don (it is all in black and white as you describe). Without checking, I am fairly sure he sings ‘faucet’ on the Solo album, albeit that it was recorded in the UK.

      • Thank you for your reply, regarding the Tapestry album, can’t think why my version had the fawcet reference on it if yours did not, mine was the original bought as soon as it was released over here. I no longer have that album due to matters outside my control, or wishes, and rather miss the American wording. Kind regards Sue.

      • Hi, just noticed this discussion, i have a vinyl version of Tapestry and Don uses the term ‘faucet’. Will have to look and see what version it is, like everyone else, i bought this many, many years ago, still one of my favourites!

  1. Good English is a lost art. The exception appears to be the poets and the songwriters like Don, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot and others. Their words echo down through the ages in the aural tradition.

  2. I have referred to ‘American Pie’ in a book I am preparing for publishing and have quoted two lines of the poem. How do I inform Don McLean and seek his permission to use the song fro drawing an example via a few of his words?

    • It’s a strange affair that permission is required prior to citing lyrics in a published work, but that’s show business. To do this properly you need to contact Universal Songs Inc. as they administer all Don McLean songs. Enquiries about the use of music, lyrics and licensing must be directed through that organisation (which I think is part of Universal Music Publishing http://www.universalmusic.com/company/faq)

    • There’s a pretty broad “fair use” exception that allows many authors to avoid getting permission for one or two line excerpts used in criticism or teaching, among other things. You do of course always need to give appropriate credit to the original authors. There are plenty of places online to read about what’s valid fair use, but if you’re publishing a book with a lot of excerpted material you’d best engage an experienced professional to handle this part so you stay out of trouble. Any experienced publishing house will know how to deal with this (though in my very limited experience the publishers make the authors obtain the permissions themselves) but if you’re self-publishing you have to worry about it.

  3. I am a mother of a bright little girl who passed in 1997. Her favorite song at that time was American pie. At that time she was 14. She always loved to listen to it over and over. Her father and I were spilt up but this song always was the song she always related to as her and her dads song. We played at her service and it still brings happy tears to my eyes when I hear it . Natasha loved this song. I just wanted to thank the artist who had such a place in Tasha’s heart. I always smile and think of my daughter when I hear this song. Thank-You Mr. McLean.

  4. I wonder how long it took to write the song? When he opened for Laura Nyro, was it the song as we know it or were some of the lyrics different and was still in the middle of writing it?

    I also wonder what Laura’s audience thought of it.

    Thanks, Danny

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