Song of the Day: “Crossroads” by Don McLean (1971)

I’ve been traveling the world for years and while I can’t imagine my life any other way, nothing makes me feel as nostalgic as being on the road. There have been many times in the past where I’ve been on a bus, train or plane and felt the need to burst into tears. A mentor of mine recently told me the best way to counter these emotions is by embracing them. And the best way to do that is by listening to songs that evoke those same feelings.

On my last bus trip from Brno to Wroclaw, I rediscovered “Crossroads” by Don McLean from his landmark American Pie album (which incidentally was one of the first vinyl LPs I ever bought). Out-shadowed by the hugely popular title track, “Crossroads,” like many other songs on this album, is an underrated gem and one that has touched many people. Most feel a closeness to the line “You know I’ve heard about people like me, but I’ve never made the connection / They walk one road to set them free and find they’ve gone the wrong direction.”

I think this line is the essence of the pop ballad; the sense of regret, the wish to turn back time, the fear of the road lying ahead. Textually, the song is about a man who returns to a long lost love and begs for salvation. But that’s far too linear interpretation. I read the entire second verse in a far more spiritual way. Hope and salvation lie with anything that will join you on the inevitable journey of life. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a person – it can be an idea, a thought, an emotion and even an absence. Sometimes absences are stronger than presences. “But there’s no need for turning back, ’cause all the roads lead to where I stand.”