Drove My Chevy to the Levee…

I’ve noticed that a lot of people surf through here looking for the meaning of the lyrics of American Pie — so I thought I’d post my thoughts on it.

I wondered about the lines for a long time: “Drove my chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry.”  It always struck me as a bit of cryptic sorrow, but I was still lost as to the meaning.  I asked someone older & wiser (my dad) what it all meant.

He told me that the writer had intended to commit suicide, but that fate wouldn’t allow it (i.e. he was going to drive his car over the edge to drown, but there wasn’t any water to drown in.)

To this day, American Pie is still in my top five of best written lyrics ever.  My own interpretation is that the writer had a revelation amid the chaos and confusion.  He didn’t know why the hell he was still here — but he knew he had a purpose.  So on he marches!

I can certainly identify with the feeling, so it became the title of my blog.   For those of you in search of a great and meaningful song, I will now post the lyrics in their entirety.


9 Responses to “Drove My Chevy to the Levee…”

  1. As far as I can tell, there is no reason to assume that Don McLean had any intention of committing suicide. The song has stirred one of the biggest debates in music history, and like all songs, is open to interpretation. The most common interpretation, however, is that the song was a tribute to Buddy Holly (and Richie Valence and J.P. Richardson). “The Day the Music Died” refers to February 3, 1959, the day the three musicians were killed in a plane crash. That the first stanza (February made me shiver/with every paper I deliver/Bad news on the doorstep/I couldn’t take one more step./ I can’t remember if I cried/when I read about his widowed bride/but something touched me deep inside/the day the music died) is referring to Buddy Holly had been admitted by McLean, but he hasn’t commented on the rest of the song. In many of the interpretations I’ve seen, the lyrics are said to reference other famous musicians (Bob Dylan is the jester who is singing for the king (Elvis?) and the queen, the quartet that is practicing in the park is either the Beatles or the Weavers, etc), and the song is a tribute to rock and roll/a lament of the decline of 50s style music.

    I’m interested in hearing more about your interpretation. I would have never made the connection you did; what made you think what you did? It’s an interesting interpretation.

  2. Bugeyedmonster2 Says:

    I thought Chevy in a Levee was a reference to those three civil rights activists who were killed by some KKK guys in 1964, on August 4. It was in Mississippi.

    “Michael Schwerner, aged 24, Andrew Goodman, 20, both from New York and James Chaney, 22, from Meridian, Mississippi. All were members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) dedicated to non-violent direct action against racial discrimination”

    Okay, I clipped that from a BBC on this day news thingy. Their bodies were found near a levee, and their car (Chevy) had been burned out. It’s also the basis for the movie “Mississippi Burning.” There were several folks involved in the deaths, including a law officer. Very sad story. Try googling it for more information.

  3. gary patterson Says:

    Seems illogical since the song was written in 1959, 15 years before the civil rights activists were killed.

  4. Well, 5, actually, but the idea is the important thing (TL)

  5. Song was written in 1971

  6. The whole song has an explanation – it is much more complicated than just that line. That was one of the most obvious ones.

    http://user.pa.net/~ejjeff/pie.html probably the best explanation.

  7. BTW, the song was written in 1969, 5 years after the murder.

    Buddy Holly died on 1959, and McLean says “Now for ten years we’ve been on our own”

  8. Samm O'Brien Says:

    ACTUALLY the plane crash of buddy holly, richie valens and the big bobber happened in 1959 (this event is the basis of the song) the song itself was written in 1971. Therefore no it is not illogical

  9. The song covers the Altamont incident in 1969.
    This was the concert where the Rolling Stones hired the Hells Angels to gaurd the stage of the concert. A Hells Angel killed a man. Don McLean calls Jaggar the Devil. “No angel born in hell
    Could break that satan?s spell.
    And as the flames climbed high into the night
    To light the sacrificial rite,
    I saw satan laughing with delight”

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