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Don McLean peddles his influential song at Thunder Valley

Don McLean’s “American Pie” was released in 1971.
Don McLean’s “American Pie” was released in 1971. Elmets Communications

When the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts released its list of the 365 most important and influential songs of the past century in 2001, the top three were clearly predictable – “Over the Rainbow,” “White Christmas” and “This Land Is Your Land.” “Respect” was No. 4; the fifth spot was occupied by one of the most over-analyzed songs of all time: Don McLean’s “American Pie.”

McLean appears Saturday, Nov. 26, at Thunder Valley.

Even though McLean revealed much of the meaning of his enigmatic lyrics when the original manuscript was auctioned for $1.2 million, it’s impossible to believe that is all there is to it. He himself has said it is simply fun to speculate, and so despite the confirmations of many lyrics dealing with the death of Buddy Holly, the Altamont Speedway fiasco, Elvis, Dylan and the deaths of civil rights workers, there’s just too much there for music analysts to leave alone.

Maybe the most accurate analysis came from Weird Al Yankovic when he wrote “The Saga Begins” as a parody of the album. After all, McLean had stated the song was about the world going in a wrong direction, and Yankovic’s take was based on the film “The Phantom Menace.”

McLean is not all “American Pie.” He is also “Vincent (Starry Starry Night)” and “And I Love You So,” and many more ballads. But “American Pie” stands out, especially in this its 45th year, celebrated with the recent release of several commemorative packages. (7:30 p.m.; $47.75-$57.75; thundervalleyresort.com)

Elsewhere this week

“Can’t Even Do Wrong Right” is the delightful title of Elvin Bishop’s latest album, featuring guest appearances by Charlie Musselwhite and Mickey Thomas. It’s been 40 years since Bishop left the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and struck out on his own, scoring with “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.” Since then he’s appeared and recorded with most of the top names in blues, rock and even gospel. His live appearances are full of surprise, and he has a vast repertoire to choose from, as his audiences will discover Saturday, Nov. 26, in the South Shore Room at Harrah’s Tahoe. (7:30 p.m.; $37; Ticketmaster)

Pink Martini started out as a band to perform at fundraisers, but it grew to become an extremely popular touring band, offering multiple and sometimes downright wicked surprises every performance. Their new album is “Je dis oui!” but one can expect a holiday bent in their performance Thursday, Dec. 1, at Reno’s Grand Sierra. (8 p.m.; $20-$50; grandsierraresort.com)

Morris Day and Time perform at Cache Creek on Saturday, Nov. 26 (8 p.m.; $45-$75; cachecreek.com); and The Sun Kings give their tribute to the Beatles on Saturday, Nov. 26, at MontBleu (8 p.m.; $25; Ticketmaster)

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