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Singer-songwriter McLean makes stop at Greensburg’s Palace Theatre

Tribune-Review
| Wednesday, November 5, 2014 9:01 p.m.
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North News & Pictures
Don McLean, one of America's most enduring singer-songwriters, is forever associated with his classic hits 'American Pie' and 'Vincent.'

Singer-songwriter Don McLean doesn’t mind that more than 40 years after he released his signature record that topped the charts in 1971, people still want to hear him perform his classic “American Pie.”

“When you’ve been around a long time, the past sometimes is more interesting than the present,” he says.

Still, the present is looking pretty good for the singer and musician from New Rochelle, N.Y., who lives in Maine with his wife, Patrisha, and two children.

Since he recorded “American Pie” and other fan-favorite tunes such as “Vincent” and “Castles in the Air,” McLean has collected 40 gold and platinum records and, in 2004, was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.

He brings his current tour to The Palace Theatre in Greensburg for one performance Nov. 7.

Despite his parade of hits in the 1970s and ’80s, McLean says the years after that were a challenge.

“I never grew to be an arena act, and that’s where the business went,” he says.

With a mantra that “it’s the music, not the setting” that keeps him going these days, he is content playing venues like The Palace Theatre. In fact, he tends to prefer them.

“Smaller places are exciting,” McLean says. “I can talk about what’s on my mind and find a way to weave in a song I’m going to sing.” He doesn’t do the same show twice and doesn’t have a set list of songs.

Besides his tour that will eventually take him back to Great Britain to perform next spring, he is celebrating the release of his “Live in Manchester” CD this month. The album was a lost project that was retrieved and recorded at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England, in 1991 with accompaniment by John Platania and the Jamie Marshall Band.

Looking back, he says he never had intentions of being a celebrity or commercial artist when he started out. But “making it” in the business was relatively easy for a talented musician-singer back then — much easier than today.

“You went to New York or L.A. and got a job at a small club, you got yourself an agent and worked hard until they’d bring you in front of a record company and you’d sign with a label. In my case, I got on the charts immediately — and my second album exploded,” he says.

Today, the business is different. Many of today’s young artists lack the staying power to work at their craft until they become seasoned entertainers, according to McLean.

“They never really get off the ground,” he says. “Artists like (Bob) Dylan and Ray Charles were terrific at being disciplined. You don’t get that just by winning ‘American Idol.’ ”

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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