Don McLean (born to Elizabeth and Donald on October 2, 1945 in New Rochelle, New York) is an American singer-songwriter. He is most famous for his 1971 album American Pie, containing the renowned songs "American Pie" and "Vincent".
The McLean clan traces its roots to the Isle of Mull in the Scottish Hebrides. Both Don’s grandfather and father were named Donald McLean which sometimes led to confusion as Don was also christened Donald McLean. Don’s mother’s family, the Buccis, came from Abruzzi in southern Italy. They left Italy and settled in Port Chester, N.Y. at the end of the 19th century.
As a young teenager, McLean became interested in folk music particularly the Weavers' 1955 recording "At Carnegie Hall." Childhood asthma meant that Don missed long periods of school and while he slipped back in his studies, his love of music was allowed to flourish. He often performed shows for family and friends. By age 16 he had bought his first guitar (a Harmony acoustic archtop with a sunburst finish) and begun making contacts in the music business, becoming friends with folk singer Erik Darling, a member of the Weavers. McLean recorded his first studio sessions (with singer Lisa Kindred) while still in prep school.
McLean graduated from Iona Preparatory School in 1963, and briefly attended Villanova University, dropping out after four months. While at Villanova he became friends with singer/songwriter Jim Croce.
After leaving Villanova, McLean became associated with famed folk music agent Harold Leventhal, and for the next six years performed at venues and events including the Bitter End and the Gaslight Cafe in New York, the Newport Folk Festival, the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., and the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Concurrently, McLean attended night school at Iona College and received a Bachelors degree in Business Administration in 1968. He turned down a scholarship to Columbia University Graduate School in favour of becoming resident singer at Café Lena in NY.
In 1968, with the help of a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, McLean began reaching a wider public, with visits to towns up and down the Hudson River. He learned the art of performing from his friend and mentor Pete Seeger. McLean accompanied Seeger on his Clearwater boat trip up the Hudson River in 1969 to protest environmental pollution in the river. During this time McLean wrote songs that would appear on his first album, Tapestry. McLean co-edited the book “Songs and Sketches of the First Clearwater Crew” with sketches by Thomas B. Allen for which Pete Seeger wrote the forward. Seeger and McLean sang "Shenandoah" on the 1974 Clearwater album.