I remember exactly where I was when I finally memorized all eight minutes of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” I mastered all six verses, plus the chorus. And to this day, I still know all the words by heart.
Those lyrics were kind of everything to me as a pre-teen, even though I didn’t know what a sacred store was, I didn’t know any angels born in hell, and I had no idea how the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost could catch the last train for the coast.
It didn’t make a bit of sense to me at the time, but I loved it nonetheless.
Not as much, though, as the anonymous bidder who recently parted with more than $1 million for the 16 pages of McLean’s handwritten and typed lyrics to the song.
Would I have paid $1,205,000 for them? If I had that kind of money, honestly, I probably would have. Then again, if I had that kind of money and regularly bid on things up for auction at Christie’s, I might rather buy the unedited drafts of a few country songs I love.
I might, for instance, try to get my hands on the Charlie Daniels Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
And while I know all of the following artists didn’t necessarily write these songs, here are a few more lyrics I’d love to have framed on my wall:
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “When It’s Gone”
Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls”
Tim McGraw’s “Number 37405”
Clearly, if it’s all about drinking, murder and prison, I’m all about it.
The McLean lyrics, according to the listing on the Christie’s website, make it pretty clear that the iconic song didn’t just write itself.
“You see great moments of inspiration, you see him attempting things that then didn’t work out,” the description states. “The direction that he was going in that he then didn’t want to follow. Those words that we all know so well weren’t fixed in the beginning.”
The poetic pages have been hidden away in a box in McLean’s home for 43 years.
“The writing and the lyrics will divulge everything there is to divulge,” the 69-year-old singer-songwriter said recently about his drafts being sold.
Which makes me wonder: Which song lyrics would be worth a million bucks to you?