‘American Pie’ singer helped fulfill Alex Trebek’s final wish

Before he passed away from pancreatic cancer last month Jeopardy! game show host Alex Trebek asked music legend Don McLean for one last favour, to which McLean was more than happy to agree.

Don McLean holds up the song list beside Alex Trebek and woman
Don McLean, Alex Trebek at Jeopardy! party in LA, 2019. Photo: Jeremy Westby/2911 Media
Don McLean, Alex Trebek and guests
Don McLean, Alex Trebek with guests at Jeopardy! party, LA, 2019. Photo: Jeremy Westby/2911 Media

Trebek was aware of his condition and made peace with his fate. McLean is the composer of American Pie, Castles in the Air, and Vincent (Starry, Starry Night), some of the most popular American folk songs of the last century even outside the U.S. His music was adopted by many generations of music lovers. One thing Trebek wanted to do in his lifetime was to experience a live performance by McLean and so he sent him a request.

“Alex asked if I would come and sing for him and his Jeopardy family at his annual Christmas party last year. I was on his “bucket” list he told me,” McLean recalls.

“This is the original email that Alex, himself, sent my office to see if I would be willing or interested in performing at his Christmas party,” at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s on December 18 last year in Los Angeles, California, exactly one year ago today.

—–Original Message—–

From: Alex Trebek
Sent: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 11:06 AM
Subject: don mclean

I am thinking of having a xmas party for the staff of Jeopardy on dec 18 and was wondering if don would be interested in performing at Vitellos restaurant in studio city ca. there would be about 150 people in attendance. is this even remotely possible. its been a longtime dream of mine. not sure i even have the budget but didn’t want to not give it a try. Please give me a call. thanks Alex Trebek, 818-505-XXXX

“It was at a lovely Italian restaurant near his home,” says McLean, as he reflects on that time he spent with Alex. 

“We planned a show and he apologized for his red complexion which he said the medication gave him. ‘I look like an Indian in a John Wayne movie,’ Alex told me. It was a joyous and sad occasion and I was very touched that my music was that important to him,” says the Songwriter Hall of Fame member and Grammy honouree.

Don McLean poses with Alex Trebek
Don McLean with Alex Trebek at his final Christmas party in 2019. Photo: Jeremy Westby/2911 Media

“There was not the slightest hint of self-pity or weakness in this man. He was elegant and dignified as you saw him on television. Old school for sure and someone who we all can learn from. I thought of him often afterward and I’ll think of him in the future and maybe try to be a little more like him,” continued McLean.

McLean performed a list of songs selected by Trebek.

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