Don McLean is fired up after announcing he was to be the recipient of a lifetime achievement award, only to have the honor taken from him a few hours later. The 73-year-old singer-songwriter — best known for the 1971 folk-rock classic, “American Pie” — was stripped of a planned George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement from a UCLA student group after it was learned that he entered a guilty plea to domestic violence charges in 2016. McLean was supposed to be given the award — an honor previously bestowed upon Julie Andrews, Ella Fitzgerald, and Ray Charles — in a ceremony on May 17.
According to The Portland Press Herald, the Student Alumni Association (SAA) at UCLA announced that they were presenting Don McLean with the award last Friday, and McLean’s publicist released a statement about the award on Monday. But just a few hours after the McLean’s publicist had released said statement, a spokesperson for the SAA said that the award was being rescinded upon the group’s discovery that McLean had previously been embroiled in a domestic dispute.
In a statement, the SAA said that their group “rejects any behavior — including violence and the threat of violence in all its forms — that does not uphold the True Bruin Values.” The student organization also offered its support to survivors of domestic abuse in the same statement.
In response, Don McLean blasted UCLA in an angry Facebook post, slamming the school for taking his award back over a “squabble” he had with his ex-wife, Patrisha. McLean noted that his public drama has been “all over the internet” for the last three years, and he demanded an apology. Don McLean also accused the school of damaging him, reiterated that he was never found guilty of any type of assault, and warned UCLA to make that clear. You can see Don McLean’s Facebook post below.
According to Ultimate Classic Rock, Don McLean’s publicist, Jeremy Westby, said it was “publicly disrespectful and grossly humiliating” to the singer to issue and then rescind an award based on “the supposition of any violent criminal history.” Westby also questioned why UCLA didn’t properly vet potential award recipients before announcing them.
McLean’s rep also provided legal evidence which showed that, in July of 2017, the singer was convicted of three “minor criminal counts” — but “was not convicted of assault or of using any force at all.”
Don McLean was arrested at his home in Maine in July of 2016, and was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence after a fight with his now ex-wife. McLean reportedly pleaded guilty to charges of domestic violence to provide closure for his family. The charges were dismissed after he met the terms of the plea deal. The music legend also paid a $3,000 fine as part of the agreement, per Rolling Stone.
Days after his arrest, Don McLean asked fans for their understanding, explaining that he was in the middle of the “breakdown” of a 30-year relationship — and that his family was going through an “emotional” time. McLean also vowed that he is not a “villain,” per CNN.
Don McLean and his wife divorced in 2016.