In 1972 one of these groups, the Children of God, came through Ohio University on a bus seeking converts. I remember this event because an friend of mine dropped out of school and went with them to a commune in Texas. I vividly remember their method of proselytizing as they hovered around the Baker University Center and Student Union passing out brochures explaining the meaning of the song American Pie.
Among other things, I recall how they emphasized the departure, in American Pie's last verse, of the "Father, Son and Holy Ghost, who caught the last train to the coast" and how after the cultural rupture of the Sixties, all the "church bells were broken."
What I do not recall is ever grasping what day it was that the music died. I remember mulling over the meaning of the song's lyrics with a friend from Kent who tried to help me understand the chorus, "I drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry." I didn't get that either.
In the intervening years it's only recently that I've given much thought to the song, as it seems to be a recurring number on Pandora's Bob Dylan channel.
American Pie is possibly one of the most dissected songs of all time with numerous websites devoted to the meaning of its lyrics. Though Don McLean has been asked countless times what the song means, his oft-repeated reply is, "what American Pie really means is that I will never have to work again if I don't want to."
So what made Buddy Holly so significant? That's the part I didn't understand till I recently stopped to dig into it. He was only 22 when he passed on February 3rd fifty-six years ago. His public career had only lasted 18 months. Did his music set the stage for the Sixties? Or was the Sixties a departure from where the geeky-looking musician with a Fender Stratocaster had begun to take us? McLean makes a case for the latter explanation, which is why the music died that day. But in my thinking both stories can make sense.
The character of rock 'n roll music was shaken considerably during the Sixties. "American Pie" outlines one man's explanation for the new sounds that emerged. According to McLean's "American Pie" Bob Dylan was one of the culprits. In verse three Dylan, the Jester, fired the first salvo. The Beatles followed up with their new sounds. The Rolling Stones, rightly or wrongly, finish the revolution these others initiated.
Maybe it was just the innocence of Fifties sock hops that died. With the civil rights movement, assassinations and Viet Nam coming on, that innocence was bound to get scarred sooner or later anyways.
This Winter Dance Party is likely to be a barn burner with a "Best 50's Costume" prize included. There will be a silent auction to preserve the Armory and a cash bar, plus snacks. And a dance contest! Don't pull a muscle, kids. Just dance your heart out.
For more information: here's the Facebook announcement with a link to purchase tickets. Or go directly to the ticket counter here. No waiting in line. Hope we'll see you there.
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There is plenty more you can read for more information. Here are some links you can follow, from the meaning of the song to why Buddy Holly still matters.
One of many sites that analyzes the lyrics of American Pie.
And here's another.
A Nod from the History Channel
Why Buddy Holly Still Matters