You’d think, after a musical career spanning half a century, that Don McLean would understand the power of amplification.

As in, the more you crank up the volume, the more people are going to sit up and take notice.

McLean, who rose to lasting fame with his 1971 hit single “American Pie,” found himself making all kinds of noise last week – but not the good kind.

Speaking through his lawyer, he went after a small weekly paper in Rockland for its advance coverage of an anti-domestic violence exhibit launched by his ex-wife, Patrisha McLean.

She’s the same ex-wife who divorced McLean following a highly publicized disturbance at their Camden home in 2016. It eventually led, in addition to their divorce, to Don McLean’s guilty plea to charges of domestic violence criminal threatening, criminal mischief and criminal restraint.

Patrisha McLean opened “Finding Our Voices: Breaking the Silence of Domestic Abuse” Feb. 15 at the Camden Public Library. As heart-wrenching as it is inspiring, the exhibit uses audio and still photography to chronicle the experiences of Patrisha McLean and 17 other women – all victims of domestic violence at one time or another during their lives.


“Finding Our Voices is a sisterhood of women who have shaken off shame and will no longer be ruled by fear,” Patrisha McLean writes on the project’s website. “We help each other be strong, and get stronger.”

Not surprisingly, Don McLean doesn’t like it one bit. Yet, ironically, he’s become the exhibit’s most powerful promotional tool.

In a letter to the Rockland Free Press on the same day the exhibited opened, Don McLean’s attorney, Eric B. Morse, demanded that the newspaper take down an article about the exhibit from its website.

“This is irresponsible journalism,” Morse wrote in a letter to the Free Press publisher and managing editor. “Patrisha McLean is using the Free Press to print false, disparaging misrepresentations about Don McLean because she felt the ‘system’ failed her. This is inappropriate.”

The Free Press, owned by Reade Brower, who also owns the company that publishes the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, pulled the story long enough to run it past its lawyer.

Then on Thursday, its sister publications – The Courier-Gazette in Rockland, the Camden Herald and the Republican Journal in Belfast – all published front-page stories about the exhibit and Don McLean’s objections to it. At the same time, the original Free Press story went back up on the company’s news site,


“The Free Press has every right to publish what Patrisha McLean has to say, regardless of her ex-husband’s objection,” wrote Sigmund D. Schutz, the newspapers’ attorney, in response to Morse.

Let’s be clear. Don McLean has no legal case here.

He’s a public figure, making it much harder for him than for the average citizen to sue for libel.

He stands convicted of domestic criminal threatening and two other charges, making it at best disingenuous for him to suggest that coverage of his ex-wife’s exhibit has somehow damaged his already tarnished reputation.

Patrisha McLean’s story is already enshrined in court records, on which newspapers can freely report without fear of being sued.

And, last but not least, the charges to which Don McLean pleaded guilty received extensive coverage the world over. Only now, his attorney wants us to believe, has a single story in a small weekly newspaper somehow caused “damage (to) Mr. McLean’s reputation and character.”


The reality here is that Don McLean finds himself in a situation beyond his control, brought to us by a woman whom he no longer can control.

It’s hardly the first time a man, after years of his way or the highway, has reacted with anger when his spouse or partner decides she’s not going to take it anymore. Maine’s news archives brim with stories, some tragic, about men who quietly terrorize their spouses or partners for years. Then, when their shameful ways are exposed for all the world to see, they suddenly – and pathetically – recast themselves as the victim.

More often than not, such whimpering goes unnoticed beyond those directly affected by the abuse.

Not so this time. The louder Don McLean complains, or the higher he rachets up his attorney’s billable hours, the more attention he draws to “Finding Our Voices, Breaking the Silence of Domestic Abuse.”

Had Don McLean kept his pique to himself, the exhibit likely would have attracted the attention of local media in the communities where it’s scheduled to appear in the coming months. Maybe, at some point, a larger daily newspaper or TV station would have weighed in with a feature on how it came to be.

Now, thanks to none other than Don McLean, it’s a cause celebre not just in every corner of Maine but far beyond. By Friday afternoon, a quick Google news search of Don McLean’s name showed the story spreading to Washington, D.C., Kansas City and even Sacramento, California.


If he were anything near the man he wants us to think he is, Don McLean would have greeted the news of his ex-wife’s exhibit with respectful silence, going on about his business while she goes on about hers.

Instead, he lashes out once again, a controller still grasping for an ounce of leverage, a victim of nothing but his own hubris.

And in the process, he motivates more people to go and see this moving exhibit as it begins its statewide tour, to listen to what Patrisha McLean and her courageous companions have to say, to realize that you can’t always know a man – even the once-revered creator of “American Pie” – by his album cover.

So go ahead and grouse, Don. Keep telling the world that you got a raw deal. Keep making empty threats about your reputation – or what’s left of it.

Like it or not, this show will go on.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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