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Don McLean Biography

Don McLean Biography

 As a young teenager, McLean became interested in folk music particularly the Weavers' 1955 recording "Live at Carnegie Hall". By age 16 he had bought his first guitar (a Harmony acoustic archtop with a sunburst finish) and begun making contacts in the music business, becoming friends with folk singer Erik Darling, a member of the Weavers. McLean recorded his first studio sessions (with singer Lisa Kindred) while still in prep school. McLean graduated from Iona Preparatory School in 1963, and briefly attended Villanova University, dropping out after four months. While at Villanova he became friends with singer/songwriter Jim Croce. After leaving Villanova, Mclean became associated with famed folk music agent Harold Leventhal, and for the next six years performed at venues and events including the Bitter End and the Gaslight Cafe in New York, the Newport Folk Festival, the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., and the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Concurrently, McLean attended night school at Iona College and received a Bachelors degree in Business Administration in 1968.

In 1968, with the help of a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, McLean began reaching a wider public, with visits to towns up and down the Hudson River. He learned the art of performing from his friend and mentor Pete Seeger. McLean accompanied Seeger on his Clearwater boat trip up the Hudson River in 1969 to protest environmental pollution in the river. During this time McLean wrote songs that would appear on his first album, Tapestry. Tapestry was released in 1970 on Capitol records to little notice outside the folk community. In late 1971, McLean's second album, American Pie, was released and became a major success, spawning two number one hits in the title song and "Vincent". American Pie's success made McLean an international star and renewed interest in his first album, which charted more than two years after its initial release. McLean continued to tour and release albums throughout the 1970s and 1980s but never replicated the success of American Pie. McLean had a series of conflicts with Saturday Night Live writer Andy Breckman, starting when Breckman opened for McLean on tour in 1980. Breckman and McLean have penned competing renditions of the origins of this feud, both of which are available online 


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