Don McLean, the iconic artist and musician behind the mega-hit "American Pie" and other well-known hit songs, has just released a new album of classic Christmas tunes — and shared a personal connection to one of the songs with Fox News Digital in an exclusive phone interview this week.
He said "Silent Night," which he performs on the album, "was my mother's favorite song that I used to sing at Christmastime for her."
He added, "It's powerful. It's a powerful song."
The Grammy-award honoree, Songwriters Hall of Fame member and BBC Lifetime Achievement Award recipient's "Christmas Memories: Remixed & Remastered" features McLean's take on other such Christmas classics and beloved holiday standards as "Winter Wonderland," "Let It Snow," "The Burgundeon Carol," "White Christmas," and more.
He said that after he and his band re-recorded and remixed "Winter Wonderland," for instance, featuring bass player Jim Ferguson on the new version, he told the others, "My God, this sounds like a whole different song."
The refreshed and upgraded songs felt so "dynamic" to him, he said, compelling him to want to get out the new album this holiday season.
Speaking of the Christmas season, McLean — born in New Rochelle, New York — said that "the holidays are a time for families to come together. I remember as a kid sitting around the record player and listening to music with my family. We all had our favorites, which we played over and over again."
He said that "all the greats from Bing Crosby to Gene Autry influenced me — so I've included my version of their classics on ‘Christmas Memories: Remixed & Remastered.'"
McLean is working all the time, he told Fox News Digital.
"American Boys," another new album of his, is coming out in February 2024 — and he's getting ready to tour again in the U.S.
His touring schedule in the year ahead may take him to the Far East, he suggested.
"As you may have remembered, the president of South Korea [Yoon Suk Yeol] sang ‘American Pie’ to our president in the White House this year — it was a big story, and he got a guitar signed by me," McLean said of the state dinner event held by the Biden White House on April 26.
McLean's recent tours over the past two years have celebrated the now 50-plus anniversary of "American Pie," the 8½-minute folk-rock ballad and cultural touchstone about the loss of innocence among the early rock ‘n’ roll generation.
After spending eight weeks on the charts, the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart on Jan. 15, 1972, noted the History Channel's website.
"American Pie" held the record for longest No. 1 song on the Billboard 100 for nearly half a century, until it was broken in Nov. 2021 when "All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor's Version)" by Taylor Swift hit No. 1 at a length of 10 minutes and 13 seconds.
"There is something to be said for a great song that has staying power," McLean told Billboard at the time.
In addition, a new children's book based on his song "Vincent" ("Starry, Starry Night") is in the pipeline and there's been a great deal of renewed interest in "Vincent," his tribute to tortured artist Vincent van Gogh, he said.
"Vincent" was the second single off his "American Pie" album. The song was a hit both in the U.S. and the U.K., landing at No. 1 on the singles chart in England.
On social media even in 2023, fans of the song continue to pour out personal feelings and insights about it — with some even saying they've broken down in tears upon hearing the song again after many years.
McLean said, "I want to share something on this point. Jack Nicholson, who is a very smart man, said something very important here. He said, 'I don't think the American public wants to be moved anymore.' He doesn't think people want to feel things. And I am here to tell you: They do feel things, but they don't have anybody out there who's giving them anything to feel."
He went on, "It's all spectacle and empty. For example, we have a terribly, terribly empty political situation right now. I've never seen anything like it in my life. Everywhere you look, there's an empty suit. Nobody's got any brains. They don't know how to use the English language — it's pathetic."
McLean said that "this is where music comes in. It can help you. It can help you feel better — but we have to get over things. We have to get over stuff. Like our grandparents and our parents did — they got over things. People are going to experience things, but they need to get over them."
Of the enduring force and affect of music, McLean added, "Think of 9/11. Buildings were toppling over. New York City was closed down. Terrible. But you can't close music down. A song exists on a record, of course, but then it exists in the minds of millions of people. And so it's a monument, in a way. It's a very powerful thing."
And "I realized when I was young guy that I didn't want to be a poet. I didn't want to be an actor or a playwright or any of those things. I wanted to write songs and sing songs. And so I think people cling to these things. That's why they're memorable. That's why they've lasted so long."
He added, "People go home to them. They're home."
McLean was recently inducted by the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. into the Music City Walk of Fame. Along with other artists, he was recognized for his significant work in "preserving the musical heritage of Nashville and for contributing to the world through song," according to a media statement.
In receiving that honor, McLean was inducted by Connie Valens — sister of the late Ritchie Valens, whose death he immortalized in "American Pie."
Also, in 2017, that song's composition was added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. Over the years, the song has been covered by the likes of Madonna and Garth Brooks.
McLean has sold over 50 million albums worldwide, according to press information.
He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was a 2022 inductee into the Musicians Hall of Fame, received a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Fame — and was recently the focus of a Paramount+ documentary "The Day The Music Died."