Issue number 52 December 15, 2003
Quorum of One is intended for adult readers
An open letter to Don McLean, singer-songwriter who wrote and recorded the 1971 hit "American Pie"
Dear Mr. McLean,
I heard your song again today. It was on the sound system at the supermarket. Before I go on, let me congratulate you for having written such a long-lasting, perennial hit. I'm sure the royalties on such a piece of intellectual property are better than a thousand IRAs. However, since it seems that your song, unlike Buddy Holly, is never going to die and I'm going to be hearing it now and then against my will for the rest of my life, I was wondering if you could make a couple of changes in the lyrics.
Don, I'm sure you know the expression "rhyme or reason". But what you obviously don't know is this: you need both. Let's think -- for one of us apparently for the first time -- about the second line of the chorus: "Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry." Why do you sound disappointed here, Don? What were you expecting? You wanted a wet levee? The entire point of a levee is to contain a body of water, so if it were not dry, then you'd have something to be disappointed about, like for instance your Chevy getting washed away in a mudslide. Indeed, if the levee had not been dry you probably couldn't have driven there in the first place.
Clearly, this line makes no sense. You could just as well have written:
Built a fountain by the mountain but the mountain was high.
Saw my granny shake her fanny but my granny was spry.
Ate papaya in Pattaya but Pattaya was Thai.
Heard some bon mots 'round Lake Como but those bon mots were wry.
Bought some henna in Vienna, but the henna was dye.
Actually that last one, by using a noun instead of an adjective for the "pie" rhyme, brings us to my other complaint, which concerns the very next line: "And them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye." Surely I'm not the first person ever to point this out: Don, rye is whiskey. Saying "whiskey and rye" is as redundant and pointless as saying "pasta and spaghetti". If everyone used your style of nomenclature for foods and beverages, menus for state dinners would look like this:
Nuts and cashews
Appetizers and hors d'oeuvres
Cocktails and martinis
Soup and gazpacho
Salad and fresh greens with dressing and vinaigrette
White wine and Chardonnay
Beef and filet mignon with brown sauce and gravy
Rice and pilaf
Red wine and Cabernet sauvignon
Mineral water and Perrier
Fruit and strawberries
Cakes and petits fours
Champagne and Dom Perignon
Coffee and espresso
Brandy and cognac
I'm sure you get my point. So if you could see your way to coming up with better lyrics for those two lines, rerecording the song, recalling all existing copies of the original version and replacing them with the new one, I, and all of humanity, would be eternally (and I mean that literally) grateful.
Thanks in advance,
¨©2003 by David Jaggard
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