NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Don McLean was expected to be awarded the George and Ira Gershwin Award for lifetime musical achievement on behalf of the Student Alumni Association of UCLA on May 17 but the award was almost immediately rescinded after presenters learned from a reporter that the singer/songwriter pleaded guilty to domestic violence charges.
McLean was to accept the award at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles during UCLA’s 2019 Spring Sing event.
“I am such a great lover and admirer of the work of the Gershwin’s that to receive this award is a thrill,” McLean said. “In popular music, the modernism of their music put them in a class by themselves.”
In recognition of George and Ira Gershwin’s contributions to American music and in honor of their gift to UCLA, the UCLA Student Alumni Association established the annual George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement in 1988.
The Student Alumni Association was contacted by the Portland Press Herald regarding the domestic violence charge and two hours later a spokesman for the group responded in an email that the honor was being taken back. McLean was arrested in 2016 and charged with several crimes related to domestic violence against his wife, Patrisha McLean, at the couple’s home in Camden. McLean pleaded guilty to the charges.
“The Student Alumni Association at UCLA has rescinded its decision to present Don McLean with the 2019 George and Ira Gershwin Award. The decision to rescind the award was made by SAA’s Spring Sing Executive Committee upon learning that Mr. McLean had previously been convicted of domestic violence charges,” Tod M. Tamberg, senior executive director of UCLA Strategic Communications Media Relations, said in a statement. “SAA rejects any behavior – including violence and the threat of violence in all its forms – that does not uphold the True Bruin Values. We extend our support to survivors of domestic violence.”
Tamberg said the award was first made public on Friday; an email touting the announcement was sent out early this morning.
Jeremy Westby, publicist for McLean, fired off a pointed email to the student group, saying it is “publicly disrespectful and grossly humiliating to Mr. McLean to issue and then rescind an award based on the supposition of any violent criminal history.”
“As mentioned on the phone earlier I am incredibly surprised and disappointed that an institution such as UCLA, having had adequate time to vet all potential award recipients, would so easily and negligently overlook something as public as what has happened to Mr. McLean and his family three years ago,” Westby wrote. He sent a copy to the Press Herald.
Westby included a letter from McLean’s lawyer that said McLean was convicted in 2017 “on his plea to three (3) minor criminal counts” and that McLean “was not convicted of assault or of using any force at all,” adding, “Don McLean entered his pleas not because he was, in fact, guilty of anything, but to provide closure for his family and to keep the whole process as private as possible.”
Patrisha McLean is now divorced from Don and is an advocate speaking against domestic abuse. As a photographer, she has created a photo and audio exhibit regarding domestic abuse. However, McLean threated to sue a newspaper earlier this year for writing about the exhibition and his attorney said Patrisha’s claims of abuse were “vicious misstatements” that will cause Don “professional and personal damage.”
The 31st edition of the award is in recognition of the contributions McLean has made to the music industry throughout his career. Past recipients include Tom Petty, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra, James Taylor, Julie Andrews, Lionel Richie, Anthony Kiedis, The Who and last year’s recipient, Linkin Park.
“On behalf of UCLA, I am thrilled to present the 2019 George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement to Don McLean,” Award Director, Isabella Dohil, originally stated, “whose poetic lyrics have transcended time and remain a staple of American culture. Don’s contributions to music have been profound and he continues to capture audiences both young and old through his dynamic storytelling.”
h/t Press Herald