From American Pie to All Too Well: the most debated lyric mysteries ever

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Recent reveals over the meaning of Don McLean’s classic have shown once again how much fans love to turn detective when singers remain mysterious

A radio staple the world over, Don McLean’s American Pie cemented itself into the ears of listeners thanks to a melodic journey that tells a story of America and, presumably, a loss of innocence that was roiling the country during the time of its 1971 release. But what the singer-songwriter was actually trying to convey has been up for debate for the past half-century, with generations of fans and critics dissecting every nuance of its nearly nine-minute runtime. It’s a discussion that has stretched into the current age, with the song, and McLean himself, the subject of the new documentary aptly dubbed The Day the Music Died: American Pie.

American Pie isn’t the only song in the vast history of popular music that has been picked apart word-by-word as if they were biblical text. Examined for double, or even triple, meanings, they’re the smash hits chock-full of metaphors, allusions and allegories that rocked the charts and, as a result, ingrained themselves in culture.

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