You know how it is. You’re doing stuff and the radio is on and you’re listening with five percent awareness, then something in your brain says “Hey, reckon you know that voice…    oh yes,  you definitely do.  Listen, won’t you?  The pitch is a little lower but there’s something about the timbre…”

So I paid attention.  The guy was a singer songwriter talking about Buddy Holly. He’s a big fan, talking about how Buddy Holly died aged 22, already having written and performed a body of work which has endured and still sounds fresh today.

And then it came to me. That voice was Don McLean, over in Blighty because last night at the annual BBC Folk knees-up, he got a Lifetime Achievement award.

He’s still performing and entertaining. He always was a proper troubadour. He and his acoustic guitar worked a kind of magic together.

I still know all the words to American Pie. To me it’s an iconic song – not just because of the lyrics but because of what it meant to me at a time when I was young and carefree and the world was just about to open up, although I had absolutely no idea what was in store. It was a time of a few of us getting together in empty classrooms with guitars and messing about trying to capture the sounds that we loved.

Don McLean’s voice was the voice of every boy I’d ever fancied. His guitar style was the way I ached to be able to play.  His music… like Buddy Holly’s music… will never die.

The other Lifetime Achievement Award went to The Dubliners.  The sainted, wonderful Barney said a few words but I won’t go on.  I said it all here

I couldn’t possibly leave this out….   🙂

It’s the incomparable Ronnie….


About janh1

Part-time hedonist.
This entry was posted in Art, Current Affairs, Music, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Iconic

  1. valzone says:

    Oh Jan, great post, I too remember the day the music died. I was at school and we girls just sat crying. 3rd Feb 1959 certainly was a sad day.We were sad not just for the great Buddy, but also Richie Valance, and the Big Bopper, all of whom we danced to in the local local coffee bar alongside the Jukebox, with our frothy coffee, in small glass cups with saucers, on the table.
    Don Mclean? fantastic performer, American pie is on my MP3, I often play it.
    Bless you Jan, great blog.

    • janh1 says:

      Val, you conjure a great image of dancing in the coffee bar. I’ve always wanted to jive properly. Mum was an excellent dancer and she could jive but I remember how totally wowed she was by the American GIs who turned up in the dancehalls and jitterbugged!! No wonder so many Welsh and English girls ended up living in the States. 🙂

      The entire album is a treasure, actually. Glad you thought the blog was worth it. Good to remember and enjoy all over again!

      • valzone says:

        The 60’s were the best of times, even my grandson says he would like to have experienced it. Yes I jived, and loved it with a passion. So yes, just occasionally you play all the songs of that era, and remember a life on the brink of something special happening, and it did, Don Mclean and all alongside him, have proved that.

      • janh1 says:

        It was an incredible decade. I still smile to think about my short, plump nan wearing her flowery nylon housecoat swaying to the Everly Brothers ‘Bye bye love” single played on the record player which my uncle (her son, then in his late teens) made for her. Fortunately I’ve still got the record – plus mum’s old 78’s from the fifties.

  2. Pseu says:

    I seem to remember he re-recorded a version quite recently… though no-where near as good as the original…am I right? ?

    • janh1 says:

      Hi Pseu, not sure but he’s doing a 40th anniversary tour this year so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s re-visiting his classics and adding in a few new ones 🙂

  3. Music gets us like almost nothing else can, doesn’t it, Jan? I love American Pie. Wonderful piece.

    • janh1 says:

      Music is exceptionally powerful mood changer, enhancer and boosts memory, I think in some unfathomable way. How else can an entire mood/feeling/scene by conjured by a short excerpt of music?

      The Dubliners song so reminds me of an absolutely rammed Cheltenham Town Hall where every single soul there was singing lustily to Black Velvet Band. The air was filled with noise charged with a shared enthusiasm which was visceral.

  4. Pseu says:

    Front Row interview this evening, with snippets of the songs. I didn’t know ‘killing me softly with his song’ was written for him

  5. janh1 says:

    Thanks Pseu!! 🙂 Beautiful song. So easy to accept that he inspired those lyrics too.

    Just found this on his website

  6. IsobelandCat says:

    I think music connects with us at A visceral level that is deeper than speech or thought. It is sound, pure and simple, pre-language. You only have to see children with PMLD and how they respond to music to know there is something deep in us that understands music intuitively.
    That said, I do like Maclean’s Amaetican Pie, but am not keen on the Black Velvet Band…

  7. janh1 says:

    And there’s you going to Ireland and all, and all. Shame on you! 🙂 Half-kidding but I thought you had to like Black Velvet Band to be allowed in?!

    I love the spirit of the Irish. Enjoyed some great evenings in the Irish Club in Gloucester with some friends listening to the live music with everyone joining in the favourites. Haven’t been to Ireland yet, though the temptation of the Swansea Cork ferry endures. One day, with the bicycles, I think. 🙂

  8. valzone says:

    I forgot to mention the Dubliners, and the black velvet band, fabulous, I love Irish musicians and their music.
    I hope my comments are showing, I’m commenting from my phone and I think tonights fresh snowfall is affecting the network, I can’t see any comments. Just been out and measured the fresh snow, 4 inches have fallen in the past 2 hours, and its still falling, wellies at the ready 🙂 hey ho

  9. janh1 says:

    Oh flip. I was hoping the snow forecast was one of those “STAY IN YOUR HOMES” dramas which would end in a little bit of drizzle.

    Yes your comments are showing up fine. Just stop measuring the snow now though. What on earth will the neighbours think with you out there in your dressing gown measuring snow at 20 to 11 in the night? Mind you, I’m toying with the idea of going on the turbo-trainer for a quick blast – but that is away from prying eyes… 😉

    I also love “You’re drunk, you’re drunk you silly auld fool” by the Dubliners… great fun and seriously great musicians.

    • valzone says:

      I’m back in bed now with electric blanket on, I’ve given the neighbours enough excitement for one night. I’m just going through my music collection for the Dubliners, I’ve got them somewhere, if I find ‘your drunk’ I’ll listen. Must go now, I still haven’t done the Telegraph Xword yet, not the toughie, I’d be a fortnight doing that one, just the quickie on the back for me. Night night Jan, and everyone else who’s tuned in.

  10. janh1 says:

    Jolly glad to hear it 🙂 I’ll find it on You Tube and add it. Night Val. zzzzz

  11. I have fond memories of singing along to American Pie in a hotel restaurant with about 20 colleagues. There may have been alcohol involved, but not that much, and we all knew the first few verses 😀

  12. janh1 says:

    Great stuff, Sophie! Not surprising some were shaky after the first verses, the radio stations often only used to play the shortened version, which was annoying. It was a rare treat to hear the whole thing.

    Never quite understood “Jack Flash sitting on a candlestick,” though. Probably best not to probe too deeply. 😉

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