Don McLean’s Touching Story of Playing at Alex Trebek’s 2019 Holiday Party

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Alex Trebek and Don McLean, Dec. 18, 2019

Don McLean shared a touching story about Alex Trebek, following the passing on Nov. 8, 2020 of the popular game show host at age 80. The singer-songwriter revealed that Trebek reached out to him in 2019 to see if he would perform at his annual Christmas party for his Jeopardy! family.

“Alex asked if I would come and sing… at his annual Christmas party,” says McLean. “[He said] I was on his ‘bucket’ list.”

Trebek sent McLean’s publicist an email on Nov. 6, 2019, asking “Is this even remotely possible?” The event was to be held at an Italian restaurant, Vitello’s, in Studio City, Calif., near Trebek’s home, with about 150 guests in attendance. McLean readily agreed.

“Anyone who knew Alex would know what a stickler he was about timing,” says McLean. “When I arrived at the restaurant, I told Alex what I was planning on performing and without hesitation, [he] pulled out a sheet of paper that he hand wrote my songs… which, he wanted me to stick to. I, of course, obliged and told him it was his show and I would do whatever he wanted me to.”

Don McLean’s setlist for the party

McLean, born Oct. 2, 1945, performed such favorites as “Castles in the Air,” “Vincent,” and, of course, “American Pie.”

“It was a joyous and sad occasion and I was very touched that my music was that important to him. 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.”

Says McLean. “I kept that setlist and here it is today!”

In his request to McLean’s publicist, Trebek had written, “It’s been a longtime dream of mine. Not sure I even have the budget but didn’t want to not give it a try.”

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3 Comments so far

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  1. La Chanteuse
    #1 La Chanteuse 9 November, 2020, 00:11

    Very touching and really cool of Don McLean to honor Alex’s wishes so gracefully. I’m happy Alex got to check an item off of his bucketlist.

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  2. Gagdad Bob
    #2 Gagdad Bob 9 November, 2020, 00:30

    Just recently I read a nice piece on McLean, with many examples of his favorite performances over the years.

    Reply this comment
  3. mak
    #3 mak 3 October, 2021, 08:48

    What a great story! Thanks.

    Reply this comment

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