Rough and emotional day on Monday. Before we could even begin to get our heads around the senseless events in Las Vegas, we were dealt a knockout blow with the news of Tom Petty’s death. “Sorrow upon sorrow” as the apostle Paul would say. And tragic in its own right that the two events will be connected forever in our minds and hearts.
How does one go about paying homage to an artist of Petty’s stature? There are so many credible aspects from which to approach giving honor where honor is due. Each worthwhile, and each legitimate.
I could write about how he idolized The Beatles from the first time he saw them on The Ed Sullivan Show, fell in love with making music as a result, and one day recorded hit songs with George Harrison.
I could tell of the myriad of musicians that mourned him, lauded him, and acknowledged his influence on their art on social media. From indie artists like Jack Antonoff and Charlie Fink to Rock legends Paul McCartney and Peter Gabriel to Country greats Martina McBride and Shania Twain.
I could talk about the mass appeal of his music: straightforward and simple Rock ‘n’ Roll with lyrics that spoke to the common man. No ambiguous language, hidden messages or mysterious analogies here. Just tell the story from the heart.
I could talk about his incredible catalog of hit songs: with his band – The Heartbreakers, as a solo artist, as a Wilbury, and with other big names like Stevie Nicks.
All these thoughts and more have been or will be expounded upon by better writers than me. I plan to spend some time reading more than one or two of them. You should, too.
But for me, the best quality of Tom Petty’s music can’t be described in words, it must be felt.
You know that feeling that you get when, from out of nowhere, you hear the beginning notes of a favorite song. It has to be unexpected – imperative that it be a gut reaction. In that nanosecond of recognition, a wave of euphoria washes over you, worries evaporate, and a weird mix of excitement and calm comfort takes hold of your soul. The only acceptable utterance is “This is a GREAT song!” And the only acceptable response is to crank the volume and sing at the top of your lungs.
That’s the kind of music that Tom Petty made.
Don’t believe me? Ask Jerry McGuire…