The Don McLean Story: Killing Us Softly With His Songs

The Don McLean Story
The Don McLean Story: Killing Us Softly with His Songs by Alan Howard

For the first time, Don McLean shared his life story in this 420-page biography by Alan Howard available from Amazon (print and Kindle) and other top bookstores.


Chapter 1: Everyone’s Caught on a Carousel Pony…Growing Up in New Rochelle
Chapter 2: Castles in the Air…Musical Apprenticeship, 1960s
Chapter 3: Tapestry…The Hudson River Troubadour
Chapter 4: Magdalene Lane…First Record Deal
Chapter 5: American Pie…Something touched me deep inside…
Chapter 6: Starry, Starry Night…Vincent and the Grammys
Chapter 7: Dreidel…My world is a constant confusion…
Chapter 8: Homeless Brother…There’s Freedom When You’re Walking…
Chapter 9: Prime Time…Nashville and Jerusalem
Don McLean on Song Making and Recording
Chapter 10: “Crying”…The Comeback
Chapter 11: Crossroads…1980s, Litigation
Chapter 12: And I Love You So…1990s, Family, and the Surf Ballroom
Chapter 13: Garth Brooks and Madonna…Another Planet
Chapter 14: A Long, Long Time Ago…Don McLean on American Pie

Don McLean is one of America’s most enduring singer-songwriters and is forever associated with his classic hits ‘American Pie’ and ‘Vincent (Starry Starry Night)’. Since first hitting the charts in 1971, Don has amassed over 40 gold and platinum records world-wide and, in 2004, was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.

His songs have been recorded by artists from every musical genre, most notably Madonna’s No. 1 recording of ‘American Pie’ in 2000 and George Michael’s version of ‘The Grave’ in 2003, sung in protest at the Iraq War. Most recently, Drake’s “Doing it Wrong” was co-written by McLean.

Don McLean is immortalized as the subject of the Roberta Flack/The Fugees No. 1 hit, ‘ Killing Me Softly With His Song’.

For the book, Don was interviewed at length about his childhood, the making of “American Pie” and his career as a singer, songwriter and performer.

Says Jim Monaghan of WHDA radio, NJ: “…Alan Howard did a terrific job in not just sharing Don’s story, but revealing a personal side of Don rarely seen by the public.”

Don McLean on stage in 2022 at The Forum, Bath, UK.

Don McLean on the pyramid stage at Glastonbury, 2011.

I have known Don since 1997. Between 2003 and 2007 I conducted extensive interviews with him in writing the first full length authorized biography “The Don McLean Story: Killing us Softly with his Songs”. During production of the book I reunited McLean with his early 1960s friend and mentor Erik Darling (of The Weavers fame) and the record’s producer Ed Freeman .

Thanks to Fred Hellerman, Erik Darling, Pete Murphy, Pete Childs, Rob Stoner, Ed Freeman, Jerry Corbitt, Ed Begley Jr., Bob Dearborn, Joel Dorn, John Peters, Larry Butler, Gordon Stoker, Fred Snel, Chris Horsnell, John Platania, Tony Migliore, Ralph Childs, Jerry Kroon, Patrisha McLean, Dick Boak, Pat Severs, Garth Brooks, Ron Buck, Bob Gregg, Alan Young, and Bill Nisbet for allowing me to include their thoughts on Don McLean and his music.

Thanks to Don McLean for putting the post-war, twentieth century experience to words and music and singing it all with a voice that transports us to a better place. I want to thank him for sharing his story.

Alan Howard (2007)