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American Pie - Don Mclean

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Prominent Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 715
Topic starter  

Here is a rather long but relatively easy song. An absolute classic though. Its slow almost talking pace verses give plenty of time for the chord changes. The great thing I found was the verse chord patterns, you've got most of the fingering already there as you go to change chords. Not much reaching (Does that make sense?)

The faster paced choruses also have a great pattern for practice changing from G to C & D. Just keep repeating the chorus over and over if you like it really helps to stretch those fingers.

Anyway enjoy.

Verse 1:

A (G)long, (D)long (Em7)time ago,

(Am)I can still (C)remember how that (Em)music used to make me (D)smile

And (G)I know (D)if I (Em7)had my chance,

That (Am)I could make those (C)people dance and (Em)maybe they'd be (C)happy for a (D)while

But (Em)February (Am)made me shiver, with (Em)every paper (Am)I'd deliver

(C)Bad news (G)on the (Am)doorstep, I (C)couldn't take one more (D)step

I (G)can't (D)remember if I (Em)cried when I (Am7)read about his (D)widowed bride

(G)Something (D)touched me (Em)deep inside

The (C)day the (D7)music (G)died (C) (G)


So (G)bye, (C)bye Miss (G)American (D)Pie

Drove my (G)Chevy to the (C)levy but the (G)levy was (D)dry

And them (G)good old (C)boys were drinkin' (G)whiskey and (D)rye

Singin' (Em)this will be the day that I (A7)die, (Em)this will be the day that I (D7)die

Verse 2:

(G)Did you write the (Am)book of love

And do (C)you have faith in (Am)god above, (Em)if the bible (D)tells you so?

(G)Do you (D)believe in (Em)rock and roll

Can (Am7)music save your (C)mortal soul and (Em)can you teach me (A7)how to dance real (D)slow?

Well I (Em)know that you're in (D)love with him 'cos I (Em)saw you dancin' (D)in the gym

You (C)both kicked (G)off your (A7)shoes, man I (C)dig those rhythm and (D7)blues

I was a (G)lonely (D)teenage (Em)broncin' buck with a (Am)pink carnation and a (C)pickup truck

But (G)I knew (D)I was (Em)out of luck the (C)day the (D7)music (G)(C)died, (G)I started singin'

Chorus again:

The other verses:

Now for ten years we've been on our own,
and moss grows fat on a rolling stone but that's not how it used to be
When the jester sang for the king and queen
in a coat he borrowed from James Dean in a voice that came from you and me
And while the king was looking down, the jester stole his thorny crown
The courtroom was adjourned, no verdict was returned
And while Lenin read a book on Marx, the quartet practiced in the park
And we sang dirges in the dark the day the music died, we were singin'

Helter skelter in a summer swelter
the birds flew off with a fallout shelter, eight miles high and fallin' fast
It landed foul on the grass
the players tried for a forward pass, with the jester on the sidelines in
a cast
Now at halftime there was sweet perfume, while sergeants played a marching
We all got up to dance, but we never got the chance
'Cuz the players tried to take the field, the marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was the feel the day the music died, we started singin'

And there we were all in one place,
a generation lost in space, with no time left to start again
So come on Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick, Jack Flash sat on a candle stick, 'cos fire is the devil's
only friend
And as I watched him on the stage, my hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell could bread that Satan's spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night to light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight the day the music died, he was singin'

Last Verse:

I (G)met a (D)girl who (Em)sang the blues

And I (Am)asked her for some (C)happy news, but (Em)she just smiled and turned (D)away

I (G)went down (D)to the (Em)sacred store

Where I'd (Am)heard the music (C)years before, but the (Em)man there said the (C)music wouldn't (D)play

But (Em)in the streets the (Am)children screamed, the (Em)lovers cried and the (Am)poets dreamed

But (C)not a (G)word was (Am)spoken, the (C)church bells all were (D)broken

And the (G)three men (D)I adm(Em)ire most, the (Am7)Father, (C)Son, and the (D7)Holy Ghost

(G)They caught the (D)last train (Em)for the coast the (Am7)day the (D7)music (G)died,

(D7)And they were singin'

Last Chorus:

So (G)bye, (C)bye Miss (G)American (D)Pie

Drove my (G)Chevy to the (C)levy but the (G)levy was (D)dry

And them (G)good old (C)boys were drinkin' (G)whiskey and (D)rye

Singin' (C)this will be the (D7)day that I (G)die.(C)(G)

Best regards,


The guitar is all right John but you'll never make a living out of it! (John Lennon's Aunt Mimi)

Vic Lewis VL
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 10264

Hah, you beat me to this one I've been meaning to post for a while, but never got round to....there's a couple of places where I play it slightly differently, for instance after the line "the day the music died" at the end of each verse, I like to throw in a fast G/F/C riff (where there's a little piano riff on the single....)

But nice job mate, another "pub classic" nailed!!!!

:D :D :D


"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)

Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1086

Very cool, very easy, very well done !!!

Be excellent to each other & party on dudes!

Trusted Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 42

could any one please give us some instruction on the strumming patterns throughout the song? thanks guys

J Rock
Estimable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 78

I can help with the strumming a little bit. The first verse the chords are just strummed once each. In the chorus I use Gadd5 - dudu Cadd9 - dudu Gadd5 - dudu D - udu. For the rest of the song I'm not positive. I use ddu/udu but it doesn't sound perfect. Near the end it goes back to one strum for each chord for a whiler. Hope this helps a little.

I can look back with a smile, knowing that my ambition far exceeded my talent.

Eminent Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 13

Check out this link for how to play this song. There's a great embelishment(sp?) on the D chord that Dave has covered before.
Easy strumming pattern also


Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 1882

could any one please give us some instruction on the strumming patterns throughout the song? thanks guys
Here's a video of Don playing it, just voice and solo guitar.

Except for the arpegiated bits at the beginning, the strumming is pretty easy to follow.

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep