âThe whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.â Bertrand Russell Don McLean was born in 1945 and grew up in New Rochelle, New York. He was one of the earliest Baby Boomers. He was born at the beginning of Americaâs last High, as described by Strauss & Howe in their book The Fourth Turning. Americaâs victory in World War II began a new 80 to 100 year cycle consisting of four turnings of 20 to 25 years. The four cycles are a High, an Awakening, an Unraveling and a Crisis. These cycles have been recurring throughout history due to the generational mood changes as people age. Don McLean grew up during a High. This was an episode of safety and security. He basked in âDr. Spock permissiveness, suburban conformism, Sputnik-era schooling, Beaver Cleaver friendliness, and Father Knows Best family order.â His idyllic life changed on the morning of February 3, 1959 when he read the headline in the newspaper he was about to deliver. 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 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 So bye, bye Miss American Pie Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye Singing this'll be the day that I die This'll be the day that I die American Pie â Don McLean To Everything There is a Season Don McLean was 14 years old in 1959 when he read the bad news on the doorstep. He didnât realize it at the time, but the American High was coming to a conclusion. The assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 marked the end of the High and the start of the Awakening. A stage of turmoil was about to erupt across America. Strauss & Howe describe the mood transition of the country from a High to an Awakening: âAn Awakening arrives with a dramatic challenge against the Highâs assumptions about benevolent reason and congenial institutions. The outer world now feels trivial compared to the inner world. New spiritual agendas and social ideals burst forth, along with utopian experiments seeking to reconcile total fellowship with total autonomy. The prosperity and security of a High are overtly disdained though covertly taken for granted. A society searches for soul over science, meanings over things. Youth-fired attacks break out against the established institutional order. As these attacks take their toll, society has difficulty coalescing around common goals. People stop believing that social progress requires social discipline. Any public effort that requires collective discipline encounters withering controversy. Wars are awkwardly fought and badly remembered afterward.â As the chart below shows, the progression of generations through the four cycles of life can be documented back to the 1400âs. Iâve always believed that George Santayanaâs quote, âThose who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat itâ, was a profound statement. After examining Strauss & Howeâs generational theory, it may not matter whether you remember the past. You are condemned to repeat it. A generation that is 80 years removed from the last similar cycle is incapable of understanding or learning from that prior cycle. Individuals may study and understand the mood changes that shifted the country on a certain course, but they are helpless in changing the powerful force of a generational life transition. Every person born on this earth has a maximum stay of about 80 to 100 years. They hopefully will make it through the phases of childhood, young adulthood, midlife, and elderhood. These phases canât be reversed or rearranged. This is why the four cycles of High, Awakening, Unraveling, and Crisis must occur in that order. When Don McLean was writing American Pie in 1970 at the age of 25, he wasnât aware that he was capturing the Awakening mood of an entire generation in one song.