1972 was a big year for me. My family took our first trip to Greece. My father was in heaven despite speaking Greek with a slight American accent. Future trips would change that. I stayed behind and spent a semester at the American Community School outside Athens. It was when I realized I was not cut out to be an expatriate. That’s why I didn’t threaten to leave the country when Trump was elected. I don’t make empty threats.
1972 was also the year in which the import of the D.B. Cooper hijacking case and the runaway success of Don McLean’s song American Pie became clear. The Cooper skyjack took place in November 1971 and American Pie was released in October of that year. But the Cooper case and American Pie became sensations in 1972.
I recall talking with Lou about Cooper. I thought it was cool since he did something 99% of us would never dream of doing and didn’t hurt anyone in the process. Lou vehemently disagreed: he was a law and order Republican who was a Nixon delegate to the 1972 RNC. My mom didn’t like thinking about it because she was acrophobic.
There are two new documentaries streaming that celebrate Cooper and McLean’s accomplishments:
- D.B Cooper: Where Are You? is a four-part docuseries on Netflix.
- The Day The Music Died: The Story Of Don McLean’s American Pie on Paramount+
It’s unknown if D.B. Cooper, whoever he may be, ever ate American Pie, the post title is a play on my customary so-and-so MEETS whosit post titles. It’s also unknown what Don McLean thinks of the raunchy teenage movie franchise that shares a title with his classic song. Oh well, what the hell.
Let’s jump start the post with a look at the D.B. Cooper series. Here’s the trailer:
The series focuses on Tom Colbert’s search for Cooper. His prime suspect is Robert Rackstraw who was an adventurer out of a John Huston movie. In the clips I’ve seen he has a Bruce Dern vibe about him.
Rackstraw was coy about whether he was Cooper until confronted on camera by Colbert and Jim Forbes who is best known as the voice of VH1’s Behind The Music series. Then Rackstraw finally denied it.
The FBI kneecapped Colbert during the making of a previous documentary then closed the case. But this sort of case is never closed: just ask your basic Ripperologist.
The final episode of D.B Cooper: Where Are You? shows the buffs at play at D.B. Cooper Fest in Seattle. It also reveals an intriguing alternate theory: D.B. Cooper as a disgruntled Canadian pilot or paratrooper. The name is the reason.
There was a popular Sixties Francophone comic book about the derring-do exploits of Dan Cooper, which was the name the hijacker bought his ticket under. It became D.B. because of media fuckups. Some things never change.
Here’s an example of Dan Cooper doing his thing:
Much to the dismay of Cooper buffs, the Canadian authorities don’t give a merde about D.B. Cooper and have never investigated this intriguing lead. So it goes.
At the end of D.B Cooper: Where Are You? those caught up in the D.B. Cooper vortex admit that they prefer the case remain unsolved. I agree. It’s an interesting but ultimately insignificant story that’s perfect for amateur detectives.
Grading Time: I give D.B. Cooper: Where Are You? 3 1/2 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B+
The last word of our first course goes to Todd Snider:
Let’s have a second slice of pie and take a look at The Day The Music Died: The Story Of Don McLean’s American Pie.
Here’s the trailer:
There’s too much hyperbole in this movie. One talking head opines that everyone in the world knows the song and can sing at least one verse. That’s hype. I’m on the record as hating hype. There’s no reason to hype American Pie. It had an enormous impact in its day and remains a much-loved song.
I knew very little about Don McLean or the recording of American Pie. McLean turns out to be a very nice and interesting man. One of my favorite bits in the movie is when he meets Ritchie Valens’ sister, and she thanks him for keeping her brother’s memory alive.
Also featured in the documentary is Greek American sculptor Zenos Frudakis. My countryman and McLean became friends after the singer-songwriter posed for him. Frudakis even incorporated McLean’s head into his Freedom Sculpture, which is on public display in Philadelphia. Here are Zenos and Don at work:
Did someone say Philadelphia Freedom?
I should apologize for that unrelated video by McLean’s peer Elton John but it’s a great song, so I won’t.
The recording of American Pie was arduous. It wasn’t going well until producer Ed Freeman brought in pianist Paul Griffin. Then everything clicked. Bass player Rob Stoner said it sounded like polka, not rock and roll before Griffin came aboard.
The lyrics of American Pie have been dissected and analyzed to death over the years. Near the end of the movie, McLean discusses the lyrics in some detail. He debunks the idea that Elvis is the king and Dylan the jester. He informed us that he would have just used the names as he did with James Dean. I wish McLean had remained cryptic. As with D.B. Cooper case, I prefer the mystery of the American Pie lyrics.
The Day The Music Died: The Story Of Don McLean’s American Pie is a nifty movie about a classic song. It has some minuses, but they’re overwhelmed by the pluses. For example, I did not know that Garth Brooks was obsessed with the song. You learn something new every day.
Grading Time: I give The Day The Music Died: The Story Of Don McLean’s American Pie 3 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B.
The last word goes to Don McLean: