One Night, Two Icons
The ’70s wouldn’t be the ’70s without Don McLean and Judy Collins.
McLean’s eternal hit, “American Pie,” is virtually burned into the collective memories of generations of Americans. Everyone knows the lyrics of 1972’s biggest hit, practically down to the letter.
Collins, though not a songwriter, has likewise etched a string of song lyrics into the minds of generations. Over a 50-year career, her crystalline voice has given the world classic interpretations of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns,” and The Beatles’ “In My Life,” among others.
Both have a place at the top among icons of 1970s America, and both have continued strong as steady performers to audiences worldwide. They’ll share the bill at The Paramount in
Huntington on Saturday, Dec. 21, when they’ll perform for an audience that undoubtedly will cross a few generations. With both artists having Christmas albums to their credit, a few holiday songs could find their way into the mix.
McLean is the man who brilliantly rhymed Chevy with levee in his iconic title song from the 1971 album “American Pie.” Ostensibly about the death of Buddy Holly in a 1959 plane crash, “American Pie” has been widely interpreted as more than a biographical exploration of McLean’s emotions over the event. Written at the end of the 1960s, an era of idealism, “American Pie” is seen by many as a metaphor for the end of that idyllic time.
Sometimes, to paraphrase someone paraphrasing Freud, “a cigar is just a cigar.” But what else could McLean mean when he says, “I went down to the sacred store, where I’d heard the music years before. But the man there said the music wouldn’t play”?
The lyrics have been widely analyzed, but McLean has refused to confirm any interpretation or offer up his own. It just is what it is.
As a reflection of the unease that we felt as we put “flower power” behind us, “American Pie” became America’s sing-along, and to this day remains a presence on radio station playlists.
He’s no one-hit wonder, though. McLean’s follow-up single, “Vincent,” about the tragic life of the artist Vincent VanGogh, kept the album on the charts, and a reissue of his “Tapestry” album put two of his most famous songs, “And I Love You So” and “Castles in the Air” into the American songbook.
He’s a troubadour at heart, firmly rooted in folk traditions.
The same could be said of Judy Collins, with whom he shares the bill at The Paramount.
Trained as a classical pianist, Collins’ love of American folk singers like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie prompted her to pick up a guitar. And the world is a better place for it.
With a voice that is as clear as any musical instrument, she interprets the songs of others, often bringing them to new levels. The title track of her first album, “A Maid of Constant Sorrow,” released in 1961 when she was 22, interpreted an American folk classic later recorded by a contemporary, Bob Dylan. With a penchant for social activism, she was drawn to the “social poets” of the time (Dylan, Tom Paxton) and is credited with putting the work of many talented songwriters and musicians before a wider audience.
Collins has maintained a steady performing schedule throughout her career, often performing up to 100 shows a year around the country.
Next stop, The Paramount.
Tickets for the McLean/Collins double bill are $39.50-$79.50 at the box office, 370 New York Ave., Huntington, or go to paramountny.com.