Don McLean's boyhood musical hero, Buddy Holly, died in a plane crash in 1959, and Don felt that the hopeful spirit of the music of that day had died with him! For about ten years Don roamed many melancholy musical miles searching for the answer and more of the music that had died, until he himself gave out with "Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie!" in 1972, which immediately touched the heartstrings and struck a responsive chord amongst American youth who felt the same, and immediately it became an international hit!
Inspired by nostalgic memories of music of the past and a generation gone forever, including his friend who had died in '59 and to whom he dedicated it and about whom he sings the first verse, he goes on into an uncanny prophetic parable about the death of America which reached the top of the pops in the very year of '72 when so many American youth were giving up on America and leaving her to her fate. Don says it was something he was trying to say for a long time but hadn't known how to say it until this song came to him. It became the theme song of America's disillusioned youth in 1972, the year of our (the Children of God's) exodus! Significant?
In the first verse he speaks of his boyhood and the death of his buddy, and in each chorus he tells goodbye to America and indicates there is no more water for the thirsty, no more sweet music of the past, but only the hard, strong stuff of a hardened generation about to die. In the second verse he asks groping questions about who or what can save us now and remembers how he'd lost his girlfriend, too. In the third, he's alone without his buddy or his girl, and things aren't the same anymore. The music that really voiced the heartcry of youth is gone, and the Devil and his crowd have taken over and the hope of revolution is dead and only death dirges remain in an atmosphere of fear.
Verse four again brings memories of the passing of the music that died and ominous premonitions of the death of its players, crushed by the military just as they were about to win the revolution of freedom! In verse five, it's too late now! The Devil and his mad music of death, war and hell have taken over! So that when, in verse six, he still tries to find some ray of hope, he only finds that the music of hope is gone and nothing but sorrow remains, followed by the silence of death, where even God finally deserts wicked America to her deserved and deadly demise!
This song is so sad and so grippingly prophetic that we cannot hear it without weeping! It not only mourns the passing of America, but also the death of a lost generation and the end of their music of hopefulness! In fact, I am sure that the inspiration of this ballad of gloom goes far beyond the significance the composer dreamed! The kids understand its spirit even if they don't comprehend the meaning of the words. It's like the lamentations of Jeremiah over the ruins of Jerusalem. It's youth's lament over the death of America and the music that died with her and her lost generation. Even its beginning reference to February has a deeper symbolism in this final Age of Aquarius. America herself takes on the form of a widowed bride left by her lover, while her hardhearted older generation are singing, "Let's eat, drink and be merry, for this'll be the day that we die." The music of the spirit, the water of life, is gone.
It's so allegorical, his questions about salvation are like he's being witnessed to, and the loss of his dancing barefoot girl like the departure of the happy Children of God, similar to the girl in the last verse who turns away and leaves him. Notice that throughout the song he sings the words clearly and makes the message more important than the music. I wish some of our own musicians could remember that.
This song reminds me of what God gave us about America in "America the Whore," as Babylon in the Bible, Revelation 18:21,22: "Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down and shall be found no more at all!--And the voice of harpers and musicians and of pipers and trumpeters shall be heard no more at all in thee!" As in Isaiah 24:8, "The mirth of the tabrets ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth and the joy of the harp ceaseth." In Ecclesiastes 12:4,5, He says, "All the daughters of musick shall be brought low," yet "the almond tree (Children of God) shall flourish!" (See "The Almond Tree," ML #158.)
America today is so like Israel was in the days before her fall, over whom the prophet Jeremiah laments: "The elders have ceased from the gate and the young men from their music. The joy of our heart is ceased and our dancing is turned into mourning! The crown is fallen from our head: Woe unto us that we have sinned!" ... "We have given the hand to the Egyptians and to the Assyrians to be satisfied with bread." In their last days the Jews were starving and they sold themselves for bread. How like America! She's going to have to sell her soul to the Africans and Asians for oil! ... And finally, Ezekiel 26 says, "I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease, and the sound of thy harps shall be heard no more!"--The day the music died!
My name is James Arendt. I was raised in the Hegewisch neighborhood on the southeast side of Chicago, Illinois, served in the USAF from 1970 to 1974, and became a full-time missionary for Christ living 40 years in Japan, 3.5 years in Russia, and a few months in other countries such as Finland, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, South Korea, Taiwan and mainland China where I also served the King of Kings, Jesus, as an Ambassador for His Kingdom.
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