One thing I don’t admit to very often is that I have always been a huge Madonna fan. I fell in love with her music after hearing Borderline on the radio in February 1984. I was living in Northeast Oklahoma at the time and crossing the border into Kansas every day to finish at the high school where I’d more or less started in October 1981. It was Styx, The Best of Times. For real.
Making that 20-mile haul every day was no small feat. I had no car and relied on various people to get me to and from school each day. It was totally, totally crazy in ways I have hardly admitted to myself let alone anyone else. As they say, it will be in the memoir. Ha.
Anyway, Madonna was with me on that ridiculous ride, literaly and figurative, that spanned by junior and senior years. Borderline played as Sonya and I clunked down Oklahoma State Highway 75 hoping not to be late for school ONE. MORE. TIME. Her car was a gigantic 1970s yellow station wagon that was a total hoot of a ride. Every day, that I rode with her I gave her my lunch money for gas. Like I said, crazy times.
In late April 1985, I went on my senior trip with Dana, David, and Oren. We floated down the Illinois River in Tahlequah, a trip during which I might have drowned had it not been for the help of my classmates, Mollie and Will, along with some mysteriously-appearing strangers. Ugh. I hate to even think about it because in 1982, a girl our family knew drowned on a float trip on that same river. My parents completely flipped out when they found out I floated down the river but that’s a story for another day. Anyway, one evening, Dana, David, Oren, and I all piled in Dana’s car and went to see Desperately Seeking Susan in Muskogee. I was a total Madonna Wannabe although I didn’t really start wearing the tell-tale trends until college.
So, for all these reasons, I thought I’d post the following news release sent to me by a PR firm. It’s about the 20th anniversary of Madonna’s American Pie as well as the 50th anniversary of Don McLean’s original version. Although Madonna has always been a very controversial figure, especially for Evangelicals and Catholics, her fun and fiery music saw me through many tough times as a young girl. I’ll always love her. I was also a huge McLean fan and memorized all the words to American Pie. It was on my first mixtape, which I created by taping songs off the radio. Like everyone, it was totally annoying when the DJ talked over the intro. I also loved McLean’s song, Starry, Starry Night, which I taught myself to play on the piano.
Madonna’s Version Topped Billboard’s Dance Club Songs Chart in 2000
Don McLean’s Recording Celebrates 50th Anniversary in 2021
New York, NY – As many people know, there are some songs that are considered classics. So when another artist covers a classic song, it can either turn out to be a hit (Whitney Houston covers Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You’) or it could be a dud (Jessica Simpson covering Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin’’).
One song that would be considered both, depending on who you talk to, is Madonna’s take on “American Pie” by Don McLean.
At the behest of her co-star Rupert Everett, Madonna recorded her version for the soundtrack to their film The Next Best Thing, a romantic dramedy from Midnight Cowboy director John Schlesinger, which starred Madonna, Rupert Everett, Benjamin Bratt, and Neil Patrick Harris. The film was critically panned and soon faded from memory, but “American Pie” — released as a single the same day on March 3, 2000 — became a polarizing global hit.
While the movie did not do well, the song hit its peak at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Billboard Dance Club Songs.
Produced by William Orbit, her lead collaborator on Ray of Light and “Beautiful Stranger” (her psychedelic 1999 single from the second Austin Powers soundtrack), the “American Pie” track is colorful, almost gaudy — the theremin-like synths and marching snares threaten to tip over into kitsch.
Don McLean, when interviewed in 2015, said this about Madonna covering his song: “I loved it. I thought it was outstanding. I thought Madonna did a great job with it. To me, she’s an artist for the 20th and the 21st century. She’s magnificent.”
“It is a gift for her to have recorded ‘American Pie,'” McLean continued. “I think it is sensual and mystical. I also feel that she’s chosen autobiographical verses that reflect her career and personal history. I have received many gifts from God but this is the first time I have ever received a gift from a goddess.”
In the music video, Madonna seemingly becomes an avatar for America itself. Between shots of her dancing in front of the flag, she showcases a diverse cast of working-class, queer, ordinary Americans. “American Pie” was unusually patriotic and nostalgic, two words rarely associated with Madonna.
Video of Madonna Wannabes, Like A Virgin Tour, 1985