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Life Arts    H3'ed 6/13/22

American Pie 50 Years Later: A Prose-Poem Review

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American Pie by Don McLean
American Pie by Don McLean
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I dunno. I never saw McLean as the equal to the Jester Dylan he seems to describe in this song, and let's face it, Dylan's "Jokerman" is a superior hit. Bong? And it worries me that this song is 50 years old (1972 as number one) and I still haven't taken stock of the song's depressing vibes. Dr. Phibes splays "Serutan" on the mouth organ backwards to spell natures. Human natures? Bums on seats, first movement of the bowel symphony, a la Rodin, and coming to terms with the human condition and revolutions, left or right, shat out and flushed down toxicity. I dunno.

We all seem to agree on certain features of the song. It's too long for instance. The themes, while marvelously souled out, couldn't carry the jockstrap of "Desolation Row." I mean, I read your yesterday letter about the doorknob chimes that broke. Fuuuuuuckly cold. And I picked right up on "the levee was dry," thinking, oh right, he's referencing Hank Wiliiams and the doggone river that was dry when he was so lonesome he could cry and wanted to die. But surely, when you think about it, he would have cracked his head on the rocks below. Bong? I dunno. Williams was a peculiar guy, from what I've read, and "I Saw the Light" broke my heart in a million pieces (like Ella Fitzgerald had just gone on and on with the pent-up blues inside shattering the Memorex high-pitched vessels of my soul), and you could feel that long song was his swan, and you could hear it, if you ask me, in Dylan's "Every Grain of Sand," going down in the flood, going down in it three times but lawd only coming up twice.

I always thought "the day the music died" was, sure, the threebies of 50s rock crashing in an evil storm of electricity. I got that. I did. But also, like, the 60s were dead, and nobody listened to Chomsky, and Ellsberg, the warplanner-turned-peacenik, and was there when the Pentagon's levitation was negotiated between Abbie and important men, and who Dylan spat at in his grave in "Masters of War," later said Kissinger wanted to kill him and that Nixon almost nuked North Vietnam, and then Kent State Neil Young-ed us, and everybody was on-board the counterculture train once we realized they'd turn their guns on us, too, and now we have 400,000,000 guns floating around in case the State tries a Jan 6 on us. Did Don McLean sing about that? Bong?

I dunno. I can't remember either if I cried about the "widowed bride," presumably Jackie O., I could be wrong, I often am in my late, shifting paradigm, but she couldn't been happy about Jack snarking (rumor goes) about being the wind beneath Marilyn's dress, and when he was buried, photos emerged of her sunbathing on Onassis's yacht and it was naughty to look at her naked on a sun bed, as if the press bulbs hadn't blown her cover years before, and looking now, the MILF genre was born. She was available. Massage that message, mofo. Bong?

"Eight miles high" was confusing. Did the pie man mean the rock song by the Byrds? (Who supposedly pushed Dylan into electric music for the people and practically assured that Joan Baez would later write "Diamonds and Rust.") Or did he mean the cruising altitude that Big Bopper fell from on that fateful day? Did Donna miss Richie? Were any Hub men killed? Was the hole they found them in like the one at Shanksville? Some music died that day, let me tell ya, motherf*cker. I dunno. Maybe it was all a mistake. I can be wrong.

"Pie" came out in the crazy 70s. Jimmy Carter and lustgate, and Iran/Contra and Reagan saying "Keep Them," and the Neutron bomb, piss down economics, and Dylan losing Sara but finding Jesus, and a**holes everywhere suddenly coming out of the woodwork, and more and more and more people thinking "this will be the day that I die" and Dylan responding with "men will beg God to kill them and they won't be able to die," and the doggone river is dry, and nobody, and I mean nobody, can say why. Bong?

I dunno. The song was probably about pie. Obviously American pie. Does he look Japanese? Dylan got skanky, I thought, in "Country Pie," like Johnny Cash sold him a bill of goods about the easy women in Athens of the South, and what did he care? American as Apple Pie. Conjures up county fairs, losers pigging out. Pork snorkeling as pax americana became more important than the pie. What do I care.

But will "American Pie" mean much 50 years from now? Will it Die Hard like Bruce Willis ("McLean, come out, you're surrounded." Yippie-kay-ay, motherf*cker)? Will there be any pie left? If he could sing it over, would he be as cryptic? Dylan just sings Raspberry, strawberry, lemon and lime / What do I care? Blueberry, apple, cherry, pumpkin and plum / Call me for dinner, honey, I'll be there." No tomfoolery. Just be There.

I myself am at an event horizon, about to fat f*ck swan into a deep black hole. Hope I don't bellyflop. I hope it's not dry, and I stand there like Peggy Lee wondering, "Is That All There Is" to this circus?

That Martin D-28 sure rumbled though, didn't it?

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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