In 1969, McLean recorded his first album, Tapestry, in Berkeley, CA. While student riots were going on outside the studio door, Don was singing “And I Love You So” inside. The transition to international stardom began in 1971 with the release of the album American Pie. The title single charted within a month of release and quickly ascended to #1 in the USA. The song is believed to be an impressionistic ballad inspired partly by the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) in a plane crash in 1959. The second single from the album, “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)” was inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s painting of “Starry Night.” As McLean studied a print of the painting, he realized that a song could be written about the artist through the painting. Other hits include “Crying,” “Castles in the Air,” “Wonderful Baby,” and more.