Sunday, October 25, 2009

American Pie - The Day the Music Died

Don McLean was born in 1945 and grew up in New Rochelle, New York. He was one of the earliest Baby Boomers. He was born at the beginning of America’s last High, as described by Strauss & Howe in their book The Fourth Turning. America’s victory in World War II began a new 80 to 100 year cycle consisting of four turnings of 20 to 25 years. The four cycles are a High, an Awakening, an Unraveling and a Crisis. These cycles have been recurring throughout history due to the generational mood changes as people age. Don McLean grew up during a High. This was an episode of safety and security. He basked in “Dr. Spock permissiveness, suburban conformism, Sputnik-era schooling, Beaver Cleaver friendliness, and Father Knows Best family order.” His idyllic life changed on the morning of February 3, 1959 when he read the headline in the newspaper he was about to deliver.

A long long time ago
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while
But February made me shiver
With every paper I'd 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
So bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

American Pie – Don McLean

To Everything There is a Season

Don McLean was 14 years old in 1959 when he read the bad news on the doorstep. He didn’t realize it at the time, but the American High was coming to a conclusion. The assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 marked the end of the High and the start of the Awakening. A stage of turmoil was about to erupt across America. Strauss & Howe describe the mood transition of the country from a High to an Awakening:
“An Awakening arrives with a dramatic challenge against the High’s assumptions about benevolent reason and congenial institutions. The outer world now feels trivial compared to the inner world. New spiritual agendas and social ideals burst forth, along with utopian experiments seeking to reconcile total fellowship with total autonomy. The prosperity and security of a High are overtly disdained though covertly taken for granted. A society searches for soul over science, meanings over things. Youth-fired attacks break out against the established institutional order. As these attacks take their toll, society has difficulty coalescing around common goals. People stop believing that social progress requires social discipline. Any public effort that requires collective discipline encounters withering controversy. Wars are awkwardly fought and badly remembered afterward.”

As the chart shows, the progression of generations through the four cycles of life can be documented back to the 1400’s. A generation that is 80 years removed from the last similar cycle is incapable of understanding or learning from that prior cycle. When Don McLean was writing American Pie in 1970 at the age of 25, he wasn’t aware that he was capturing the Awakening mood of an entire generation in one song.

this is a long and stunning must read; & since i felt like i had lived through it, i saved it for sunday....continue reading American Pie...


  1. if someone can clue me in as to how to insert photos in the middle of a post i'd appreciate it; everything i tried ended up on top, & hence was just edited out...

  2. thanks for showing this. i agree, there is a new awakening on the horizon. [ a new era] lol. if you will. we will all now have to adapt to a new mind set. a foundation must be forged to bring us into a balance among ourselves. imho; this next decade, perhaps even the next two years will affect generations to come in ways they have never dreamed of. it will not be through revolution. rather, it will come about via an evolution of man-kind. survival, freedom, serenity. vs. further bondage, illusions of grandeur, and fascism.

  3. Good one!

    I feel like I went to church and heard a great sermon. :)

  4. well, i didnt hold it till sunday to have it come out like a sermon...but as i was dragged thru flashbacks of the last 50 years, i sure ended up feeling like we'd really screwed up, & a real sense that we could have done better...

  5. I too enjoyed the article and the establishment of a grand theory of events both past and for the future with regard to the time periods of the last Anglo American outline for the Milennial. This grand theory is not mine, mine happens to be that we are experiencing the death of the Industrial Revolution as we in the past experienced the death of the Agricultural Revolution. Perhaps I forced the facts but the time periods in the Millennial: America High(1946-1964) coincident with the zenith of industrialized factory production in the US- Consciouness Revolution(1964-1984) represents the casing off of the industrialized factory based economy and the move to a service based economy-- Culture Wars (1984-2005)a period beginning the struggle between those seeking to retain their benefits derived under the industrial revolution and those seeking to install the new revolution that replaces industrialization of factory production and the associated recognition of the failure of educational, political and economic systems that grew from and supported the Industrial Revilution. Millennial Crisis- 2005-2026 the conflict between those seeking to retain the staus quo of what has provided them benefits in the past against the inevitable New Revolution of the future.

  6. nohelp, i didnt post this to promote any "grand theory" of human cycles; in fact, i pretty much believe most theories arise from patternicity, the tendency of the human mind to find patterns in otherwise unrelated meaningless input data - (think of zodiac signs or pictures formulated when viewing clouds); & "reality" is only those interpreted patterns that we agree to agree on... to me, the relationship hypothesized by strauss & howe is merely an incidental curiosity to the history the author provided of the past fifty years and how far into the abyss our society has already fallen...

  7. rjs, I know you were not promoting this grand theory-- it is a good article and I agree the relationship by Strauss & Howe is incidential to the value of the article but something never the less that caught my attention since I have one of these grand theories of events-- many are fooled by forcing reality to fit their models instead of making their models fit reality. I think we have experienced a lot of that in recent years from economist making reality fit their models instead of vice versa.