When singer/songwriter Don McLean was just a young teenager, he had a job delivering newspapers. When he threw a newspaper down on a front porch in early February, 1959, the headline that he read would change his life forever.
He remembers reading about the tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of the pilot, Roger Peterson, and three rock and roll musicians: Ritchie Valens, J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and a young man by the name of Charles Hardin Holley, better known to the rest of the world as Buddy Holly. Little did McLean know at the time, but he would eventually write a hit song about that day and it is known by just about every music fan and gearhead alike.
The song spanned across two events in history that McLean felt had affected the music world as we knew it. The first of those two events was the plane crash that happened on this day, February 3, 1959; the second event was a free concert that was held at Altamont Speedway on December 6, 1969, in Northern California.
At the concert, the Hells Angels motorcycle club was hired as ushers, and to run security. Up on the stage were bands that would last for several decades to come: Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Rolling Stones, to name just a few of them.
When a young man approached the stage while the Rolling Stones were playing, he was physically shoved away. He would have none of it, so Meredith Hunter returned with a gun to face his aggressor and he was subsequently stabbed to death right there in front of the stage by Alan Passaro, a member of the Hells Angels.
Several beatings occurred that day at the hands of the Hells Angels, and three more lives were lost in unrelated incidents. Due to the violence and turmoil at the concert one of the main organizers of the event, the Grateful Dead, didn’t even get to perform on stage.
Later known as Altamont Raceway Park, the track closed down in October, 2008 but will always be remembered for that tragic day in 1969. The tragic event is featured in the 1970 Rolling Stones documentary Gimme Shelter.
Driving A Chevy To A Levee, And The Song That Lives On
The song that spans those two events – and the ten years in between that were so influential in Don McLean’s young life – is American Pie. It was a number one hit in the U.S. for four weeks in 1972, and even today it’s hard to turn it off when it begins playing.
The song is over eight minutes long; it chronicles the light and free 1950s, and expresses how pop music, politics, and America in general evolved into the dark and troubled 1960s. In the lyrics you can hear subtle references to those two events, as well as several others that had affected many of us during the 1960s.
In his lyrics McLean said, “February made me shiver”, and he referred to the plane crash as the day the music died. When the song was released in the fall of 1971, gearheads all over the country sang along to one line in particular: “Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry.”
Although the song wasn’t about Chevrolet, or cars in general, that single line comes to the mind of every gearhead when asked what they remember about American Pie. Since it was released, there have been numerous attempts to understand the true meaning of the song, and people will continue to come up with their own interpretations for years to come. McLean chooses not to explain the song, rather he prefers to let others enjoy it for what it means to them.
American Pie wasn’t the first song to ever mention a vehicle, but there have been plenty of songs since then that focus on a popular car, and numerous music videos that feature musclecars from nearly every generation. Gearheads love songs that mention cars, and surely they’ll never forget that Chevy – even though the model was never identified.
In honor of that day in 1959 – the day the music died – we are paying tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper, and Don McLean by sharing some of our favorite videos that combine our passion for driving a Chevy with our love for great music.
We’ve listed a few articles below that we’ve published over the past couple of years with memorable tunes, as well as some cool cars. So put on the headphones and let the music live on – again.
Muscle Cars, Hot Rods, Girls, Running From The Law And Music
As we mentioned, cool cars and hot girls are a great combination for a music video, and Bucky Covington & Shooter Jennings rounded up the whole posse for this one. We don’t exactly condone standing up in the back of an El Camino blaring down the highway, but for the sake of the video we’ll make an exception.
How many times have you called on all your friends to bring their classic musclecars down to the local watering hole on a hot summer afternoon? That’s about what happens here in their music video as they all get together and explore The Drinkin’ Side Of Country.
There are plenty more music videos featuring some of our favorite cars, and this could go on forever if we listed them all. Tell us some of your favorites in the comments below, and even though February 3, 1959, is known as the day the music died, these videos are proof that it has made a full resurrection and will hopefully continue to grow stronger, and feature more musclecars.
Hot Cars, Hot Girls, Hot Music Makes For A Great Video (NSFW)
A little over a year ago, we were contacted by a rock band in France that put together a music video about musclecars and Route 66. The band is OIL-LEN, a play on the lead guitarist’s name (Lionel) and they’ve been together for 20+ years.
For a band that doesn’t speak much English, and in a country where you wouldn’t expect to see many musclecars, they put together a pretty impressive video. There are a few scantily-clad women in the video, so be sure you aren’t checking this one out at work. Here’s Fastback ’70s by OIL-LEN, a song reminiscent of Lionel’s life as a kid and dreaming about his favorite car.
1970 Chevelle In Keith Urban’s “Somewhere In My Car”
Keith Urban is no stranger to musclecars, and he’s used a couple of them in various music videos. His wife, Nicole Kidman, even bought him an immaculate and expensive 1969 Ford Mustang Cobra as a gift.
In this music video, however, he jumps ship and takes up love and comfort on the hood of a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle. He and his love interest polish the hood in the rain as Keith Urban sings about being Somewhere In My Car.
What Does Rock Group Train Have In Common With Classic Cars?
We love it when a rock group uses musclecars in their videos, and in this video Train picks up three cars we’d love to own: A Firebird, Camaro RS, and a Mustang. We love the way they used the three pony cars from the Big Three, and tied that in with the three primary colors for this video.
Of course, what cool car song would be complete without a little drama with the significant other? It’s thrown in for good measure; check out Train with their killer red, yellow, and blue musclecars doing a little Drive By.