The Troubadour

Don McLean, whose song “American Pie” topped the charts in 1972, tours around the world, but calls his Camden estate home.

By Michael D. Burke
Photograph by Benjamin Magro

A few years ago my wife and I were descending the stairs in an inn at the northern end of Scotland after a long train ride. We’d heard there was going to be traditional music downstairs in the pub that night and were looking forward to listening. As we descended, we could hear the instruments: fiddle, accordion, mandolin, penny whistle, and washboard. But the song was a puzzle. It was that classic American song, Don McLean’s “American Pie.” Stranger still, the entire pub knew all the words, singing robustly in unison.

We took it to be just another of those quirky experiences one stumbles into while abroad; probably one of the players had spent time in the States and picked the song up while there. But later, after we rented a car and drove farther north, we kept hearing that and other Don McLean songs on the radio, over and over.

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Michael D Burke

Michael Burke is a professor of English at Colby College and the author of The Same River Twice: A Boatman's Journey Home.