American Pie singer Don McLean says an Elvis Presley song changed his life


TL; DR:

  • The “American Pie” singer thought Elvis Presley’s voice sounded “dark” on the first Elvis song he heard.
  • Elvis’ appearance on a magazine cover had a huge impact on McLean.
  • The first Elvis song McLean heard became a huge hit in the United States.

Elvis Presley | Bettmann / Contributor

Don McLean is best known for his classic rock song “American Pie”. McLean said hearing one of Elvis Presley’s songs in his youth was “completely mind-blowing”. Subsequently, seeing Elvis on the cover of a magazine shaped McLean as a musician.

Don McLean listened to songs about technology he thought were “futuristic”

During a 2020 interview with The Tennessean, McLean opened up about listening to the radio when he was young. “We used to get together and play the new record with a bunch of kids, listening to someone’s new album they liked,” he recalled. “It was an excuse to get together and have a soda or something.”

McLean considered portable radios to be “futuristic”. “Someone would have one of these futuristic plastic radios that you could take to the beach and we would think, ‘Whoa, what a big deal, having a radio that small compared to the radio at home,'” recalls -he.

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RELATED: Three Dog Night’s ‘Joy to the World’ Has a Weird Connection to Elvis Presley’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’

Don McLean said Elvis Presley’s voice sounded ‘dark’ on one of his most famous songs

In a 2022 interview with The Red Bulletin, McLean said hearing Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” on the radio changed his life. “The first time I heard that was completely mind blowing to me,” McLean said. “It was summer and the sun was almost setting. I was walking around and came across a group of kids playing it on a portable radio.

The song introduced McLean to the king of rock ‘n’ roll. “I heard that dark voice and it was dark,” he recalls. “It was the first time I had heard of Elvis Presley.”

Elvis inspired McLean as a musician. “The next thing I know, I saw [Elvis] on the cover of tv guide in a red jacket with a Martin guitar,” he added. “That’s when my quest to play guitar began.”

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RELATED: The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards Explained Why There Weren’t Many Covers of Elvis Presley’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’

How Elvis Presley’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ performed on the charts in the US

According The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, “Heartbreak Hotel” became Elvis’ first No. 1 song. It topped the Billboard Top 100 for eight weeks. For context, the Billboard Top 100 was the predecessor to the Billboard Hot 100. Billboard listed it as the most successful single of 1956.

“Heartbreak Hotel” has appeared on numerous compilation albums over the years, the most famous being Elvis: 30 No. 1 hits. The album topped the Billboard 200 for three weeks. The compilation remained on the chart for a total of 125 weeks.

‘Heartbreak Hotel’ was a huge hit – and McLean’s music might not be the same without it.

RELATED: Elvis Presley Made One Of His Girlfriends A Promise To Sing Rock Songs And She’s Now In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

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