This week has been really tough. In a week dominated by a mass shooting in Las Vegas, a continued humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, and just the standard craziness of the Trump years the life of one of my personal music idols was taken by a heart attack. Tom Petty died at the age of 66. Honestly this is not really young, but its also not really old. David Bowie was 69. Men die in their 60s from heart attacks all of the time. But that was not what hurt.
What hurt was the feeling that it had to happen THIS WEEK man! With all of the other craziness happening in the world now was the time that God decided to take one of the great voices of our musical time!? It just seemed like really bad timing. But, he was gone. All of his charm, wisdom, and love of music was gone in an instant. He died from a sudden heart attack.
But that is not how I remember him. Here is how I remember Tom Petty and his music.
I remember his album Damn The Torpedoes being in my father’s music collection. The album had songs like Refugee, Don’t do me Like That, and Here Comes my Girl. Like his other album that featured late 70s Alt-Radio rock, The Cars, this album felt different and was more in line with my developing idea of what awesome music was. It was my father who introduced me to Tom Petty but I really already felt like he was mine and I was only 8 years old.
A few years later I spent a lot of time in front of the TV and watched a ton of MTV. As my father was romancing our social worker my brother and I discovered MTV. It was the video for You Got Lucky that seemed so amazing. Set in a world similar to Mad Max the video showcased the power of music even when the rest of the world had crumbled. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen.
Move ahead a few years and my mom got cable when we were living in Spokane. One of the first videos I saw on MTV that night was Don’t Come Around Here No More. This homage to Alice In Wonderland blew my mind. It was artistic and cool and beautiful while also being innovative. It was my entrance into music as art.
Not long after that I was watching the MTV Music Awards and Tom Petty introduced and sung Free Fallin’ with Axl Rose and I knew, that was one of the anthems of our life. It was perfect and captured the voice of GenX. After that came the Wildflowers album, American Girl featured on Silence of the Lambs, and Tom Petty became the boomer voice of my generation.
Tom Petty was the voice that made music both cool and important. He was unapologetic. His music mattered to me. His songs meant something to the average guy or gal who works hard, does the right thing, but still can’t get ahead. Tom Petty was kind, inclusive, professional, and beautiful. His music will be the echo of my life and while my life will change, too many of these songs mean too much to not fade away. This one hurts.