A Letter from Don McLean. By way of Caffè Lena

The following letter and email are shared with the permission of oral historian, musician and Caffè Lena friend Mark Klempner, and shed light on the Caffè as a conduit for inspiration between musicians. As a young aspiring musician, Mark heard Don McLean perform “American Pie” in a small audience at the intimate Caffè Lena. Mark’s contact with Don at the Caffè led to this letter of musical guidance from the legendary performer to the upcoming songwriter, and greatly influenced Mark’s music career.

“I find it interesting that James Taylor had just come out at that time with his first album on Apple Records (he was, I think, the first artist the Beatles signed for their new record company, and almost the last because Apple didn’t last very long) and I was taken by such songs as “Something in the Way She Moves” and “Carolina on My Mind.” Yet Don thought James would be a flash in the pan and that Tim Hardin was an artist of real substance. Ironic considering how things unfolded . . .

[After Caffè Lena] I went on to a career as a professional musician that lasted more than twenty years. While still in NY I got to play with Pete Seeger, and later was a studio musician in Los Angeles during the 80s. During that time I played on recordings and at live gigs for some great musicians including Luther van Dross, David Benoit, and Holly Near. One of the perks of the job was meeting, talking to, and sometimes even informally singing with some  all-time greats including  George Harrison, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Diana Ross, and Ritchie Havens. Though Don became more reclusive after “American Pie” I saw him once in a while and he was always very gracious.”

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