With a musical career spanning more than 50 years, legendary singer-songwriter Don McLean is best known for chart-topping hits such as “American Pie,” “Vincent” and “Castles in the Air.” Since first getting radio play in the early 1970s, McLean has amassed over 40 gold and platinum records worldwide and, in 2004, was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.
Now in the midst of a world tour, McLean will make a stop at the Sunoco Performance Theater of the Whitaker Center for the Science and the Arts at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at 222 Market St., Harrisburg. Tickets for the concert can be purchased at www.whitakercenter.org or by calling 717-214-2787.
Throughout the decades, McLean has established himself as one of America’s most enduring singer-songwriters. His songs have been recorded by artists from every musical genre, including George Michael’s version of “The Grave” in 2003, sung in protest of the Iraq war and Madonna reworking his “American Pie” for a No. 1 recording in 2000. Elvis Presley, who loved McLean’s music, performed the song “And I Love You So” during every concert in the years before his death.
McLean is cited as a major influence by such artists as Garth Brooks and Ed Sheeran, who has said that McLean’s songwriting is the finest in the art form.
A native of New York, McLean grew up listening to artists such as Frank Sinatra and Buddy Holly, but then as a teenager became interested in folk music, particularly The Weavers. By the age of 16, he had bought his first guitar and started performing in such folk music hubs as The Bitter End, The Gaslight Café in New York and The Cellar Door in Washington, D.C.
After a stint in colleges, he turned down a scholarship to Columbia University Graduate School in favor of becoming a resident singer at Caffe Lena in New York. McLean was also a member of the first Clearwater Sloop crew and, along with Pete Seeger, traveled the Atlantic seaboard performing concerts at each port.
McLean recorded his first album, “Tapestry,” in 1969, but it wasn’t until 1971 with the release of the album “American Pie” that he was catapulted to stardom. The title song was released as a single and began climbing the charts to No. 1 within a month. The public was baffled by the song’s meaning, and analyzed every line of the song, with McLean refusing to sanction any interpretations of the song until just recently when, according to a 2015 interview, he sold the “scratch pages” that he used to create the song for $1.2 million. “American Pie” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003 and was voted among the top five of the Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America.
With a huge fanbase and decades of music under his belt, McLean continues to tour in North America, Europe and other international destinations, bringing audiences a mix of his classic hits and newer compositions. His newest album, “Botanical Gardens,” was released in 2018 to critical acclaim.