The Talkhouse

Jackie McLean Remembers Her Childhood as Don McLean’s Daughter

The budding musician reflects on the lovely and less-than-lovely aspects of her upbringing.

The older I get, the more I understand just how unusual my childhood was. I lived in a house on a hill, far away from the small town below, with my parents, my brother and a vivid, Technicolor cast of virtual friends. My father was afraid to let us leave the house. He always told us that it was dangerous outside. Friends were not allowed to come over. My hair was long and flowing, I had a whole hilltop to myself, and, late at night, I would lean out of my bedroom window, close my eyes and listen to the sounds of a lone dog in the distance, the wind in the trees, the music of the peepers’ chorus.

There were long stretches of time when I’d lie still, alone with silence and my own nebulous thoughts, romantic visions in my head, and play elaborate imagined interactions in my mind where I was part of something bigger, one member of an interconnected network of peers: an orphan in an orphanage, a Jane Austen adolescent, a visitor to Oz.

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