Singer and guitarist Donald McLean III hails from the United States. With “American Pie,” which he wrote and sang in 1971, he is most remembered for his folk rock “cultural touchstone” about early rock & roll’s “loss of innocence.” Among his other hits are “Vincent” (a song about Vincent van Gogh), “Dreidel,” and “Wonderful Baby,” as well as his covers of Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” and the Skyliners’ “Since I Don’t Have You.”
Don McLean, a well-known singer-songwriter in the United States, is a multi-millionaire. The singles “American Pie” and “Vincent” from Don McLean’s 1971 album “American Pie” made him a household name. “Dreidel,” “Wonderful Baby,” and cover versions of “Crying” by Roy Orbison and “Since I Don’t Have You” by the Skyliners are among McLean’s other top singles. McLean was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.
In 1945, Don McLean was born in New Rochelle, New York, to Elizabeth and Donald McLean. His father is Scottish, and his mother is Italian; therefore, he has Scottish and Italian ancestors in common. McLean first became interested in folk music when he was a teenager. While he was frequently absent from school due to his asthma as a child, he never lost his love for music. Erik Darling and Fred Hellerman of the Weavers were two of his first contacts in the music industry when he was just 16 years old.
McLean attended Villanova University after graduating from Iona Preparatory School in 1963, but he dropped out after four months. After that, he began working with agents Harold Leventhal and Herb Gart, the latter of whom would serve as his manager for the next 18 years. McLean toured the country for the next six years, playing at different locations and events.
McLean has had two marriages. ‘ Carol Sauvion, who developed the PBS series “Craft in America,” was his first wife, and they had a son together in 1974. In 1976, the couple divorced. In 1987, he married Patrisha Shnier, a Canadian, and they had two children, Wyatt and Jackie, in the relationship.
When McLean was caught and charged with domestic violence, he admitted to four of the six offences and paid a $3,000 fine. He was sentenced to two years probation. By way of charity, McLean serves as an ambassador for TCA. Also, he formed the Don McLean Foundation, which would be sustained indefinitely by his income. A wildlife preserve is also part of the facility, which is used for fundraisers and conferences.
In 1968, McLean earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Iona College. The Columbia University Graduate School offered him a prestigious scholarship, but he turned it down to focus on his music career. A funding from the state allowed him to expand his audience as he travelled along the Hudson River.
As a teenager, Pete Seeger became a mentor and friend to McLean and accompanied him on his Clearwater boat tour to raise awareness of river pollution. The song “Shenandoah” was sung by the two of them together on the Clearwater album in 1974.
McLean’s debut album, “Tapestry,” was released in 1969 during the student uprisings in Berkeley, California. Released by Mediarts following a 72-sample rejection from other labels. After United Artists Records purchased Mediarts, McLean produced his second album, “American Pie,” which catapulted him to international success. American Pie” and “Vincent,” a tribute to Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh, both made it to the top of the album’s singles list.
The sad deaths of Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson, and Ritchie Valens in a 1959 plane crash served as inspiration for the latter song, an 8.5-minute ballad on the loss of innocence and the growth of American youth culture. McLean’s most well-known and commercially successful song peaked at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972 and hasn’t been off the top since. The success of “American Pie” prompted McLean to release “Don McLean,” which featured many of the same musicians from that album.
“Dreidel,” which peaked at number 21 on the Billboard charts, and “If We Try,” which peaked at number 58, were two of the album’s tracks. On his fourth studio album, “Playin’ Favorites,” McLean covered “Mountains of Mourne,” an Irish folk song, and “Everyday,” a Buddy Holly song. “Homeless Brother,” McLean’s final United Artists album, was released in 1974. The Persuasions, Cissy Houston, and Pete Seeger all contributed vocals to the album, which was backed mainly by New York session musicians.
McLean recorded his 1977 album “Prime Time” while working for Arista Records. It was not long after that he released “Chain Lightning,” which he had recorded with Elvis Presley’s backup singers in Nashville. In 1981, the album peaked at number 28, while the single “Crying,” a cover of Roy Orbison’s song, peaked at number five. In the early 1980s, McLean’s singles “Since I Don’t Have You,” “Castles in the Air,” and “It’s Just the Sun” went to number one on the charts.
“Love in My Heart,” “You Can’t Blame the Train,” and “Eventually” were all top ten hits from his country-influenced 1987 album “Love Tracks.” Since then, he has released albums like “Headroom,” “The River of Love,” and “You’ve Got to Share Songs for Children,” as well as his first album of original material in 14 years, “Addicted to Black,” which came out in 2009.
Awards and Honors
His alma mater, Iona College, awarded McLean an honorary doctorate in 2001. Grammy Hall of Fame inductees “American Pie” and “Songwriters Hall of Fame” were both established the following year. McLean was the subject of a feature-length documentary that aired on PBS later that year. Artists like Garth Brooks, Madonna, and Josh Groban have recorded McLean’s songs during the course of his career. His gold, platinum, and multi-platinum record sales in the United States were honored at a ceremony held in 2019.
Royalties and Assets
Hundreds of times a day, every day, the song “American Pie” is played on the radio around the world. Many years later, McLean still makes between $300,000 and $500,000 a year off his famous song. Universal Music Publishing Group has represented his library since 1990. He is renewing his contract with UMPG for another $4.5 million in 2018, and he did so in 2018. There is a 300-acre estate in Camden, Maine, where Don McLean makes his home. Additionally, he owns various properties in the state of California.