I know! Yesterday, I said I was taking this week off due to my pain level jumping. But, there comes a time when one just has to accept the pain you have during everyday life only to tackle a greater pain. Yesterday, the rock world lost one of the finest songwriters of our generation, or perhaps any generation. Unfortunately, Tom Petty has left us to join the Heavenly Rock Choir.
I never met Tom Petty. I would have been too nervous to have met him. But, his music has meant the world to me. His lyrics dealt with the pain of growing up, of being a loner, of wanting a voice to scream my feelings to the world.
Tom Petty was my Bob Dylan, my Bruce Springsteen, my John Lennon, that singular voice that could express my intellectual torment along with my inner, unspoken pain. I celebrated many important events in my life with his music. I have talked about buying Full Moon Fever when my younger son was born and celebrating his life with Tom. I celebrated my older son’s birth with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ Live Aid performance. His music got me through my life before I met my wife, those stupid adolescent moments of angst that make us the adults we are today.
I remember, some college friends stealing a “Petty Ave.” street sign for me for my 20th birthday, only for the Muncie police to confiscate it from my room during Spring Break that year. I wrote some of my best themes in my freshmen English courses on his music, especially the song “Insider”, perhaps his finest statement of that battle of one’s insecurities versus the outer mask of arrogance a young male thinks he must wear.
And, just because Tom has left us, his music will have no end. I have the memories of his announcer yelling, “Will you please welcome, from the United States of America, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers!” at the first of theirs I attended at a half-filled Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, and the Heartbreakers ripping into a roaring version of “American Girl”, only to witness Tom sliding across the stage to the microphone for a perfectly timed start to the lyrics. That was thrilling to the nineteen-year-old me. And, it was just as thrilling when he and the band walked onto the stage in 2009 to play “You Wreck Me”.
Yes, Tom Petty has left the building for the last time. But, he has left us with his never-ending gift of music from Southern Accents to Highway Companion, Hypnotic Eye to Damn the Torpedoes, to all points before, after and between. Thank you Tom Petty for making this life just a bit more bearable.