As the song begins, the narrator seems to feel nostalgic about the music written by a certain person, and he describes the way that music made him smile (1-3). He misses the music from the past that could make people smile, and that could help them forget their troubles. McLean seems to be referring to the 1950s, which is clearer in the chorus of the song. As the speaker goes on, he says, “But February made me shiver / With every paper I'd deliver.” Here it is widely believe that Don McLean is referring to the death of Buddy Holly. He is said to have been delivering newspapers on his paper route the February that he learned of Buddy Holly’s death. The speaker identifies Holly by the month of his death, and the, “widowed bride,” (12)
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He means that the people who were members of the counterculture were all gathered together at Altamont, and the ideas of their movement were, “lost in space.” “Jack Flash,” (70) is a reference to the Rolling Stones' song “Jumpin' Jack Flash,” in which the protagonist “nimbly plays with fire to boast of his freedom” (Fann). As he does many times, McLean ends with his idea that the music of the 1950s has died.
In the final verse of the song the speaker walks among the ruins of his generation, searching for remnants of the 1950s that he once lived through. Lines 81-83 seem to speak about a person who when asked for any happy news can only smile and walk away. This seems to be speaking of Janis Joplin, who died in 1970 of a heroin overdose. He says in line 84 that he goes down to the “sacred store,” which is most likely a record store that he visited in the 1950s. He says specifically in the next line that he had heard music there years before. When the speaker says, “But the man there said the music wouldn't play,” he means that the store no longer has the music that he wants to buy (86). At the end of the final verse he yet again uses the signature line of the song, “the day the music died.”
This song is filled with constant meaning and lyrical significance. The speaker begins by speaking about a certain type of music that he used to listen to and that made him smile often. His nostalgia of the past times is