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Don McLean – American Troubadour DVD

Lisa Ward


For some, the name Don McLean is instantly synonymous with his career defining song American Pie. I’ll admit even I was involuntarily ignorant of his career before watching American Troubadour. Sadly, I still feel like I don’t really know much more about him now.

The documentary, which runs just under two hours was recorded by American production company PBS. It initially opens with three songs at different points in McLean’s career before entering into a question and answer style interview with McLean himself. The questions that were asked in the documentary often seemed a bit bog standard, it was the strength of McLean’s story telling that helped them to develop. However the constant cutting and returning to the screen often created a dizzying effect that failed to hold my concentration and left me pondering what it is that they were keeping from the audience.

After 40+ minutes of this one on one (very static) interview with McLean a new person is introduced; Author and Historian Douglas Brinkley, who is next up to offer his opinion of McLean’s music and career. Like the previous interview Brinkley’s camera time is yet again static and it is easy to lose interest. This same style continues with the next three interviews; these include Lori Lieberman, the writer of Killing Me Softly, a song inspired by one of McLean’s performances in Los Angeles Troubadour club, Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys and Mike Mills of R.E.M.

It is not necessarily that the interview technique used is bad (although the repetitive questions with each interviewee did get tedious) however the editing make the documentary feel limited  which in turn makes it come across a little boring. If they had interspersed the interviews with some songs form McLean and maybe blended the interviews more liberally then it may have held your attention for longer. However, the style of McLean then Brinkley then Lieberman et al just did not work.

It is due to this rather grating style that the documentary just did not transmute the work of McLean or the man behind the music as well as it could have done. Compared with other such as Anvil! The Story of Anvil or Queen: Days of our Lives, American Troubadour just doesn’t leave as big of an impact.