Recorded and released on the American Pie album in 1971, the single by American folk rock singer-songwriter Don McLean was a number-one U.S. hit for four weeks in 1972. The song is a recounting of “The Day the Music Died” — the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper (Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.)—and the aftermath. Don McLean wrote the song in Cold Spring, New York and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The song is well known for its cryptic lyrics that have long been the subject of curiosity and speculation. Although McLean dedicated the American Pie album to Buddy Holly, none of the musicians in the plane crash are identified by name in the song itself. When asked what “American Pie” meant, McLean replied, “It means I never have to work again.” Later, he more seriously stated, “You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me…. Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.” McLean has generally avoided responding to direct questions about the song lyrics, such as saying, “They’re beyond analysis. They’re poetry.”, except to acknowledge that he did first learn about Buddy Holly’s death while folding newspapers for his paper route on the morning of February 3, 1959, (the line “February made me shiver/with every paper I’d deliver”).
American pop star Madonna released a cover version of the song in March 2000 to promote the soundtrack to her film The Next Best Thing (John Schlesinger, 2000). Her cover is much shorter than the original (it contains only the beginning of the first verse and all of the second and sixth verses) and was recorded as a dance-pop song. It was co-produced by Madonna and William Orbit, after Rupert Everett (Madonna’s co-star in The Next Best Thing) had convinced her to cover the song for the film’s soundtrack.