In 2005's Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story, Chuck Klosterman writes, "There are only two really long songs that get played on classic-rock radio every single day," Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" and Don McLean's "American Pie." "I've noticed that nobody changes the station when 'American Pie' comes on," he continues, describing how folks typically endure the nearly nine-minute track and sing along with the chorus. "However, almost no one listens to 'Stairway to Heaven' all the way through," he says, challenging college grad students to delve deeper into this phenomenon. To date, no scholarly research has been conducted — at least none that we could find. Moreover, the trend continues, and McLean's seminal track, now 40 years old, remains one of music's most inescapable songs. Classic-rock stations still milk "American Pie," and everyone, from Madonna to Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, has covered the song. But McLean himself best tells the story of "the day the music died." And luckily for us, his is still alive.
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