Christie’s Auctions Off Don McLean’s Original ‘American Pie’ Lyrics for $1.2 Million

The album cover for Don McLean's American Pie.
The album cover for Don McLean's American Pie.

The original lyrics and draft for “American Pie,” Don McLean’s iconic 1971 rock song, have sold for $1.2 million, including premium at Christie’s New York. The price fell in the middle of the $1 million to $1.5 million presale estimate (see American Pie Lyrics To Go Under the Hammer).

The manuscript, both typed and handwritten, is a hefty 16 pages, which is appropriate given the song’s epic length of eight minutes and 33 seconds.

The enigmatic lyrics to the popular rock song have long been a mystery, but the musician’s original draft may hold clues to their deeper meaning. When the sale was first announced in February, McLean promised Reuters that “the writing and the lyrics will divulge everything there is to divulge.”

“Don McLean’s manuscript of ‘American Pie’ achieved the third highest auction price for an American literary manuscript, a fitting tribute to one the foremost singer-songwriters of his generation,” noted Christie’s books and manuscripts department head Tom Lecky in a statement. “This result is a testament to the creative genius of Don McLean and to the song’s ability to still engage and inspire.”

Among the American manuscripts that have outperformed “American Pie” on the auction block is the first draft of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” which fetched a record $2 million for song lyrics at Sotheby’s New York this past summer (see Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” Lyrics Bring $2 Million at Auction and Buy Bob Dylan’s Illustrated First Draft of the “Greatest Song of All Time”).

The two songs are both held in extremely high regard: “American Pie” was named Song of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment of the Arts, while Rolling Stone ranked “Like a Rolling Stone” as the greatest song of all time.

Famed Beatles songwriter and lyricist John Lennon was also a major draw at auction last year, but it was his non-musical writings that found success at the auction block. A sold out auction of short stories, nonsense verse, and drawings brought in $3 million at Sotheby’s New York this past June (see Beatles Sold! John Lennon Manuscripts Score $3 Million).


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