Don McLean’s Daughter Details Years of Alleged Mental and Emotional Abuse
Jackie McLean, the daughter of "American Pie" singer Don McLean, says her father was mentally and emotionally abusive toward her throughout her childhood and well into adulthood. In both an interview with Rolling Stone and on her own new album, Another Life, the younger McLean describes the "psychological warfare" he allegedly inflicted.
Jackie McLean, now 31, alleges that her father ran their household through fear and intimidation, creating an environment that she likens to a cult.
"I’ve been drawn to books and documentaries about cults, and part of the reason is because I really see something familiar,” she says.
"It’s this feeling that there’s one person who is completely in charge and who’s almost supernatural, who knows everything and who has all the answers and who is somehow in charge of the world. And you are constantly trying to please that person," McLean adds. "And it’s not that you just want to make them happy; it’s that you feel like your survival depends on it."
Don McLean's ex-wife, Patrisha, has made similar claims over the years.
“I do feel there is an element of brainwashing there. I relate to a lot of the things ... about cults like the charismatic leader, and how their version of things becomes your version, the twisted version ... and it’s crazy," she told the Irish Times in 2020.
The couple — also parents to a son, Wyatt — divorced in 2016, after Don McLean was arrested and charged with domestic violence. In January of that year, police were called to the couple's home after Patrisha reported that he had been terrorizing her; McLean was later also charged with threatening, terrorizing, criminal restraint, obstruction and criminal mischief.
McLean pleaded not guilty to all of the charges, then pleaded guilty to several misdemeanor counts as part of a plea deal that would see those charges dismissed after one year if he complied with all of the conditions of the deal (having no contact with his wife, undergoing a mental health evaluation and committing no additional crimes in the year following his plea). He eventually paid a $3,660 fine to completely settle the case in July of 2017.
Jackie McLean does not allege any physical abuse on the part of her father, but she claims that his angry outbursts and decades-long pattern of withholding love, support and money to control her have poisoned their relationship to the point where she no longer has any contact with the iconic singer-songwriter. She provided Rolling Stone with emails, texts and recordings of conversations to back up her claims. She writes about her complicated relationship with her father on a number of songs on Another Life, the new album from her duo, Roan Yellowthorn.
"You’re conditioned to feel like he has power over you ... like he had ultimate power," she says of her relationship with her father during her childhood. "I really felt like he was some sort of god. So, it’s not just that I’m worried that he’s gonna yell at me. It’s like he has ... enough power over my life that if he’s angry at me he can do anything to ruin my life."
For his part, Don McLean denies his daughter's allegations.
"I was a father of a family who was there for anybody who had any questions and who needed any answers,” he says.
"I didn’t condition anyone. I didn’t isolate anyone," McLean continues, adding that he "do[esn't] understand what mental and emotional abuse is," and noting, "I was away for ... 40 percent of the year, and during that time Jackie and her brother and her mother ran wild.”
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