What's the meaning of "American Pie" Verse 6 ("I met a girl...")?

A local paper the morning after the Buddy Holly plane crash
A local paper the morning after the Buddy Holly plane crash. newspapers.com

What's the meaning of "American Pie" Verse 6 ("I met a girl who sang the blues")? 

Aside from the Jester, the King, and the Queen, the most inscrutable and intriguing character in Don McLean's "American Pie" is the "girl who sang the blues," a girl whom the narrator meets after the tumultuous events of the previous five verses has died down. A sort of guide to the postapocalyptic emotional landscape that remained after America's great culture wars, it brings the song home in more ways than one.

 

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away

This is almost certainly a nod to Janis Joplin, the finest and most popular female blues singer of her time. Her early demise in 1970 at the age of 27 is probably expressed in McLean's line about turning 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

These lyrics merely prop up McLean's idea of music as a sacrament, a theme that he works throughout the song. But why is the music refusing to play? Some theorize that this refers to the demise of traditional record stores, which would allow a customer to hear a record before he bought it. Next to the other religious imagery in the song; however, that seems too trivial a reason.

And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed

A beautiful passage, but one that simply speaks to a general entropy, a feeling of things (society?) falling apart.

The screaming children may be those of Kent State or the Watts riots or napalmed children in Vietnam, but there's no real way to tell. The decade, after all, was rife with turmoil of almost every kind.

But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken

Further reinforcing the notion that the music wouldn't play because the holiness of rock and roll and its promise has been tainted by indulgence and indifference.

And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast

Here McLean ties in the rock Trinity of Holly, Valens, and Richardson with the Catholic Trinity -- bear in mind that the singer had an extensive Catholic schooling. But is this only a metaphor? Probably, especially since the idea of going west as a symbol for Death is an old and uniquely American one. (Then again, Don never stipulates which coast they're headed for, but since rock was largely born in the East and was, by the end of the Sixties, firmly entrenched in Los Angeles, we can consider going west a safe assumption. Motown, for example, moved to L.A. permanently the year this record came out.)

Another famous trilogy remains as a remote possibility, however -- John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, all prominent political leaders who were assassinated.

The day the music died
And they were singin'...

Bye, bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing "This'll be the day that I die."
"This'll be the day that I die..."

They were singin'...

Bye, bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye Singing "This'll be the day that I die."

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Fontenot, Robert. "What's the meaning of "American Pie" Verse 6 ("I met a girl...")?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 28, 2016, thoughtco.com/meaning-of-american-pie-verse-6-2522005. Fontenot, Robert. (2016, February 28). What's the meaning of "American Pie" Verse 6 ("I met a girl...")? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/meaning-of-american-pie-verse-6-2522005 Fontenot, Robert. "What's the meaning of "American Pie" Verse 6 ("I met a girl...")?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/meaning-of-american-pie-verse-6-2522005 (accessed November 22, 2017).