DON MCLEAN FACTS:
Genre: Folk, Folk Rock
Hometown: New Rochelle, New York
Awards: Member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame
Albums: Tapestry (1970); American Pie (1971); Don McLean (1972); Playin' Favorites (1973); Homeless Brother (1974); Prime Time (1977); Chain Lightning (1978); Believers (1981); Love Tracks (1987); Headroom (1990); The River of Love (1995); The Western Album (2003); Addicted to Black (2009)
Hits: "American Pie"
Other: The Grammy Hall of Fame inducted "American Pie".
Though he may be best known for penning what is widely considered to be one of the best songs in rock history, Don McLean has been consistently performing for more than 40 years and remains one of the forebearers of popularizing folk music with mainstream crowds.
McLean found an interest in folk music at a very young age, and after meeting fellow musician Jim Croce during his brief stint at Villanova University, he soon began to pursue a career in performing. Soon after leaving the school, McLean began playing in shows throughout the United States, eventually landing a steady gig at a small cafe in Saratoga Springs, New York.
McLean's debut album, Tapestry, was released in 1970, and despite earning positive reviews from critics and being widely popular in folk circles, it failed to gain traction in the mainstream. His breakthrough was not too far off, however, as his second album, 1971's American Pie, became one of the most popular albums of that decade, and the album's title track, an eight minute reflection on the history of rock music, is a mainstay on lists of the best songs of all time. Along with "American Pie" and "Vincent," the album was an immense success and peaked at number one on the Billboard 200.
It was tough for McLean to live up to the hype surrounding American Pie, and his self-titled third album failed to do so. Despite the dropoff in popularity, his third record, 1973's Playin' Favorites, was somewhat of a rebound. It was a moderate success overseas in the United Kingdom, and featured a trio of singles including some classic folk music.
By the late 1970s, McLean became a household name once again thanks to Chain Lightning, which produced a number of hits including a cover of the Roy Orbison favorite "Crying." The early 1980s yielded similar results for McLean, but by the middle of the decade he began to make a move toward a more country-influenced sound as evidenced by his 1987 release Love Tracks.
Even decades after "American Pie" made him an international star, McLean still managed to produce popular albums including 1995's The River of Love and 2003's The Western Album. His most recent record, 2009's Addicted to Black, is available for purchase online, and while he may not be the force inside the music industry he once was, McLean remains a popular performer throughout the world.