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Connect The Chords: American Pie

Posted on: January 25th, 2012 by dville
Welcome to another edition of Connect The Chords!  In this episode we’ll disect Don McLean’s 1971 masterpiece American Pie.  This song has a whooping 13 chords.  But, if we break the chord progression down into logical segments you’ll see it really isn’t that difficult of a chord progression to internalize. 

First, listen to the song in the video making mental notes of where in the lyrics you hear the chord changes.  The song is in the key of G. You’ll notice the basic chord progression in the verse is I-V-vi-ii-IV-vi-V.  Play this progression over and over until you have it in your ears and under your fingers.  As you work your way through the verses you’ll see minor variations of the main progression.  (Don’t worry about those suspended chords now, they are just garnish)  The chorus is a basic I-IV-I-V followed by a vi-II7-vi-V7 tag. 

Once you are familiar with the basic chord progression hum the melody and play through the song slowly listening to the changes.  After you’ve done this you’ll be ready to play along with the video at tempo by ear.  Good luck and have fun!

Key: G: I-G ii-a iii-b IV-C V-D vi-e vii*-f#
A long, long time ago, 
I can still remember how the music used to make me smile.  And…

I-V-vi-ii-IV-vi-IV-V (Vsus4-V-Vsus2-V)
I knew if I had the chance that I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while.

But February made me shiver, with every paper I delivered
Bad news on the doorstep, I couldn’t take one more step.  I…

can’t remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride
I-V-vi-IV-V7-I (IV-I)
Something touched me deep inside,
The day, the music died.

I-IV-I-V-I 3x
So bye-bye Miss American Pie,
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry.
Them good ole boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye sayin’
This’ll be the day that I die, this’ll be the day that I die.

Did you write the book of love and do you have faith in God above,
If the bible tells you so.  Now do 
you believe in rock and roll, can music save your mortal soul,
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?  Well I 
know that you’re in love with him cause I saw you dancin’ in the gym.  You 
both kicked off your shoes and I dig those rhythm and blues.  I was a l
lonely teenage bronkin’ buck with a pink carnation and a pick-up truck, But
I-V-vi-IV-V7-I-IV-I (I-V7 to chorus)
I knew I was out of luck the day the music died.
I started singing…
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
And a voice that came from you and me
Oh 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
A 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 falling fast
It landed foul on the grass
The players tried for a forward pass
With the jester on the sidelines in a cast
Now the half-time air was sweet perfume
While sergeants played a marching tune
We all got up to dance
Oh, but we never got the chance
Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the music died?
We started singin’
Oh, 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 candlestick
Cause 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 break 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’
I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play
And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most-
the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost-
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
And they were singing

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