“American Pie,” Don McLean’s song of ‘innocence lost,’ covers an insane decade of ‘coming of age’ in the 1960’s and early 70’s. It was a catchy dirge about busted illusions and the harshness of life beyond its normal performance stage. Shocked with the deaths of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper in one plane crash in 1959; and the ensuing emotional distress over such prominent rock stars true mortality at such young ages, it became the ignition spark for McLean’s melodic rumination on growing up facing life’s harsher realities.
The chorus line of “Bye, bye Miss American pie…” signaled the end of childhood delusions for a nation itself, as naïve teens suddenly faced their more cruel adulthoods—which during that time period covered the assassination of two Kennedys (President John Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy—the US attorney general then running for President) and Martin Luther King Jr., prominent civil rights leader; plus the growing horrors of the Vietnam War in Asia where young men were drafted right out of high school and sent into the jungle ‘fires of hell’ thousands of miles from home.
It was a time period I actually lived through both as a child and then as a young adult who marched in protest of the war. Any of my male high school friends who did not go to college, were immediately scooped up by the war-machine and sent to horrific deaths for a cause that no one knew why.
Even those who safely made it through their combat deployments were forever scarred by the experiences, OR… as with the counter-culture Hippie-Revolution against the establishment of the time, they were spaced out on drugs—which McLean referred to as “a generation lost in space.”
But the same could be said for most wars since that time—Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.. There is little sense to be made of wars in general, but the ‘loss of innocence’ aspect and the initiation into the true horrors of combative living were very real and inescapable for many during that time of McLean’s laments, so the song was very popular.
I’m mentioning this background now because I‘m also reflecting on a dear friend who is struggling to simply live through the month. When she goes it will be a “When the Music Died” sort of loss for me.
True, we all have a shelf-life. We all have pending expiration dates. But watching someone you love slowly disappear is a harsh reality to swallow no matter whoever experiences it.
Not my first time through it of course, and hardly my last I’m sure, but sometimes the shock of witnessing such pending mortality to someone as vibrantly alive, joyful, and funny as this friend once was, is a tough sell for the mind to comprehend. But yet, it is what it is.
It’s just another of those McLean verses on how life actually works. No more delusions. No more childhood trust and faith in the life-affirming ‘way of the world.’
It is just LIFE; and with LIFE comes DEATH—no matter who you are or what you do.
But know this: those of us left behind when you go will feel great personal loss at your passing.