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Posts Tagged ‘Don McLean’

Don McLean’s song American Pie begins with these lines:

“A long, long time ago…
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they?d be happy for a while.”

The time, a long, long time ago, that made me dance was a day in 1969 – the day that the Eagle landed on the moon.  The futures I had been reading about in the pages of stories by Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke and all the rest, was suddenly real.

Gloriously, blissfully, inarguably and undeniably real.  Kennedy had told us we could do it, and we did.  All of us.

My imagined future – the space program, a career on the moon or maybe even Mars, was within my grasp.  No longer a pipe dream, all I had to do was work hard, get good grades and pass the physical. By the time I would be ready to, there would be a place waiting for me.

The remaining two stanzas of the opening of American Pie, before the break, tell the rest of the story:

“But february made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver.
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,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.”

The day the music died for me was the day in 1971 when the Apollo program was cancelled.  My dream died, having lived only a few short years.

I hadn’t done anything wrong.  I hadn’t been turned down.  I hadn’t failed to make the grade. I never got to show whether I had the ‘right stuff’. 

Someone else, someone I didn’t know, someone who undoubtedly did not share my dream, had taken it all away from me.

The last two stanzas before the closing chorus:

“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.”

Like McLean, all I can do now is remember what might have been.

The images are from the Spizter Space Telescope.  Between Spitzer and Hubble, I’ve gotten about as close as I can to the dream.

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