"Killing Me Softly With His Song", Roberta Flack's Grammy Award-winning single of 1973, was written by Charles Gimble and Norman Fox about McLean.
The Big Bopper's real name was J.P. Richardson. He was a DJ for aTexas radio station, KTRM, who had one very big novelty hit, the very well known "Chantilly Lace". There was a fourth person who was going to ride the plane. There was room for three, ahd the fourth person lost the toss -- or should I say won the toss. His name is Waylon Jennings...and to this day he refuses to talk about the crash. ( Jennings was the bass player for Holly's band at the time. Some people say that Holly had chartered the plane for his band, but that Valens and/or Richardson was sick that night and asked to take the place of the band members.)
About the "coat he borrowed from James Dean": James Dean's red windbreaker is important throughout the film, not just at the end. When he put it on, it meant that it was time to face the world, time to do what he thought had to be done, and other melodramatic but thoroughly enjoyable stuff like that. The week after the movie came out, virtually every clothing store in the U.S. was sold out of red windbreakers. Remember that Dean's impact was similar to Dylan's: both were a symbol for the youth of their time, a reminder that they had something to say and demanded to be listened to.
American Pie is supposed to be the name of the plane that crashed, containing the three musicians who died. (Reported by Ronald van Loon from the discussion on American Pie, autumn 1991, on rec.music.folk)
Dan Stanley mentioned an interesting theory involving all of this; roughly put, he figures that if Holly hadn't died, then we would not have suffered through the Fabian/Pat Boone/et.al. era...and as a consequence, we wouldn't have *needed* the Beatles -- Holly was moving pop music away from the stereotypical boy/girl love lost/found lyrical ideas, and was recording with unique instrumentation and techniques...things that Beatles wouldn't try until about 1965. Perhaps Dylan would have stuck with the rock and roll he played in high school, and the Byrds never would have created an amalgam of Dylan songs and Beatle arrangements. Lynn Gold tells me that "Life" magazine carried an annotated version of American Pie when the song came out; does anybody have a copy? If so, please contact me, because I'd love to see it.
Still other :-) notes:
Andrew Whitman brings a sense of perspective to all of this by noting:
As to what they threw off the bridge, Bobbie Gentry once went on record with the statement that it was the mystery that made the song, and that the mystery would remain unsolved. Don McLean later used the same device to even greater success with "American Pie," which triggered a national obsession on figuring out the "real meaning" of the song.
Well, probably not a national obsession, but certainly the life's work of many talented scholars. According to the latest edition of the "American Pie Historical Interpretive Digest" (APHID), noted McLean historian Vincent Vandeman has postulated that cheezy countrycomposition than had originally been thought. In particular, the "widowed bride," usually supposed to be either Ella Holly or Joan Rivers, may in fact be Billie Jo. According to this radical exegesis, the "pink carnation" of McLean's song is probably what was thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge, and was later found by the lonely, teenaged McLean as he wandered drunkenly on the levee.
Of course, such a view poses problems. McLean vehemently denies any knowledge of Choctaw Ridge, and any theory linking the two songs must surely address this mysterious meeting place of Billie Jo and her husband Billy Joe. Vandeman speculates that Choctaw Ridge may have been the place McLean drove his Chevy after drinking whiskey and rye, and that McLean may have been unaware of the name because of his foggy mental state. Still, there appear to be many tenuous connections in Vandeman's interpretation - Tammy Wynette as the girl who sang the blues, the proposed affair between Wynette and Billie Joe which later led to d-i-v-o-r-c-e and Billy Joe's suicide, the mysterious whereabouts of George Jones, and whyeconomical Japanese car.
My own view is that none of it makes much sense. Vandeman's theory is intriguing, but it seems far more logical to hold to the traditional interpretation of "American Pie" as an eschatological parable of nuclear destruction and the rebirth of civilization on Alpha Centauri.
[ Thanks, Andrew. I'll take it under advisement. Oh, and I've forwarded this to Mulder and Scully for their take on it. ;-) ---Rsk ]
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