GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Eleven years ago, Don McLean’s classic song “American Pie” was put to a lip dub that showed the city was not “dying,” as one national magazine put it.
On Friday, McClean visited Grand Rapids for the first time to sing at a concert and sing his praises of the city.
“I couldn’t believe it. It was like a Spielberg video for somebody,” McLean said of the video released in May of 2011.
Earlier that year, Newsweek magazine put Grand Rapids on the list of Dying American cities. Then along came social media guru Rob Bliss. Bliss set out to prove the magazine wrong.
It seemed liked the entire city got behind the message, marching through downtown with their lips moving to the words of the 1971 classic — all eight and a half minutes of it.
“It’s just unlike anything else that I’ve ever seen. And it just came out of the blue,” McLean said of the video. “All sorts of things have happened in the 50 years to other songs of mine as well, but especially to ‘American Pie.’ But nothing like this where a whole city decided to get together and show they cared about the city. They had the energy. They had the youth and enthusiasm.”
McLean’s visit also served as a reminder of what at the time of the video release was Michigan’s booming film and television industry. Then, the state was offering large incentives in the form of tax rebates to production companies. Those credits drew several big-name productions. But a report by the Senate Fiscal Agency determined the state was only getting back a portion of what it was handing out for the incentives. The program ended in 2015.
New legislation would bring back film incentives in the form of tax credits instead of rebates. The measures are still in committee in Lansing.
But tax incentives weren’t the inspiration to the rendition of a classic song. A sense of community was. And along with impacting the city, it also impacted McLean.
“It’s part of my story now, another chapter or whatever. It’s so unusual. I can’t think of anybody else who would have a song that would be used in this manner,” McLean said.
McLean was set to take the stage at DeVos Place at 8 p.m. Friday.