Lessons from American Pie

I get to watch live concerts quite rarely – even those of my all-time favorite artists. I missed David Gates’ concert at the Araneta Coliseum in 2004, for instance. It says a lot then when I manage to watch all the concerts of an artist in Manila ever. I watched Don McLean’s concert at the Folk Arts theater in 1982. I enjoyed that mildly. I felt that McLean was trying much too hard to project the artistry in his body of work.

Nonetheless, I watched him again at Araneta in 2011. This time around, the 68-year old folk artist poignantly revealed to his Manila audience that whenever he performed in a city as part of his recent world tour, he was always conscious that that  moment may be the last time he will be visiting that part of the world. He played and he sang relishing every moment with the crowd. And I enjoyed that immensely. And – what the heck – I resolved not to miss any more concerts of my teenage pop idols. Life is simply too short.

So when the Rocket Man hit town in 2012, I was there close to the front row to watch and sing along. If I did not lose my mobile phone 5 months ago, I would have posted here all the excellent photos that I took of that December evening.

The other half of the Bread’s songwriting duo, James Arthur Griffin of Memphis, is someone I would have surely watched if he came to perform in our shores. But he joined Jim Croce, Mary Travers and John Denver in the Great Studio in the Sky in 2005. The haunting melody, “For All We Know” is one of his best-known songs. I heard Just Say When a few years ago and listening to this poignant number makes me wonder why only the good die young.

James Griffin

But coming back to Don, many of his songs serve as emotional milesposts in my life. As a callow twelve year old, I learned about both joy and pain from the American Pie album: Crossroads, Winterwood, Empty Chairs, Sister Fatima, Babylon, The Grave….

They walk one road to set them free
And find they’ve gone the wrong direction.
But there’s no need for turning back
Cause all roads lead to where I stand


When I first lived outside of the country, I would often play Mountains of Mourne on my guitar as I pined for the islands.

But for all that I’ve found there, I might as well be
In the place where the dark Mourne sweeps down to the sea


Don, I do not know if you will ever be back in these parts but your music is forever etched in my soul. And for that, I thank you.


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