I’ve always enjoyed Tom Petty’s music, but it’s been a few years since I gave his catalogue a thorough listening. Upon re-visiting it these past few days, it has occured to me that Tom Petty might be my favorite musician of all-time. Strange, and sad, that it never really occured to me before.
Many, many people have written much better eulogies for him than I ever could so, instead, I’m going to pull a couple lines from my favorite Petty songs, and explain what they mean to me.
American Girl: “And if she had to die tryin’ / She had one little promise she was gonna keep” – Don’t we have have that one promise?
Refugee: “It don’t make no difference to me, baby / Everybody has to fight to be free” – And sometime that fight never truly ends.
Here Comes My Girl: “But when she puts her arms around me / I can, somehow, rise above it” – We should all be so lucky to find that someone.
Even The Losers: “Baby, even the losers / Get lucky sometimes” – Even The Losers was almost the title of my first book before I changed it to Misfit Toys In Love.
The Waiting: “The waiting is the hardest part / every day get one more yard” – In this life you have to just keep pushing and you can get there; one yard at a time.
Don’t Come Around Here No More: “Stop walking down my street / Who do you expect to meet?” – An oddly menacing line in a pretty straightforward break-up song that no doubt inspired the iconic Alice In Wonderland themed music video.
Free Fallin’: “I’m gonna free fall out into nothing / Gonna leave this world for a while” – Which was always made easier to do while listening to a Tom Petty song.
I Won’t Back Down: “You could stand me up at the gates of Hell / But I won’t back down” – Don’t let this world push you around. After all, you know what’s right and you got just one life.
Runnin’ Down A Dream: “It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down / I had the radio on, I was drivin'” – Anyone who’s ever cruised down the highway on a spring day at 80 MPH can relate to this one.
Learning To Fly: “Some say life will beat you down / Break your heart and steal your crown / So I started out for God knows where / Guess I’ll know when I get there” – This song really started resonating with me when I left the ‘burbs to attend college in NYC.
Into The Great Wide Open: “Into the great wide open / Under them skies of blue / Out in the great wide open / A rebel without a clue” – Everyone who is, or ever was, a teenager can nod along to this bit.
Mary Jane’s Last Dance: “Oh, my my / Oh, hell yes / Honey, put on that party dress / Buy me a drink, sing me a song / Take me as I come, cuz I can’t stay long” – We all need to cut loose every now and then.
Wildflowers: “You belong among the wildflowers / You belong somewhere close to me” – Take you significant other on a vacation somwhere nice, and then get back to me on this one.
You Don’t Know How It Feels: “I woke up in-between a memory and a dream” – This happens to me every time I wake up in the middle of the night when I’m spending the night in a hotel room.
Walls (Circus): “Half of me is ocean / Half of me is sky” – This underrated gem reminds you that everyone is more than one thing, but they are also at one with every other living thing on the planet.
Angel Dream (No.2): “I followed an angel down through the gates / I can only thank God it was not too late” – This lovely tune hit me most when I met my wife, and then once again when my son was born.
The best concert I ever went to was a Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers show back when I was 19 or 20 years old. Every song sounded just as good as it did on the album, with just enough extra jamming to make it absolutely worth the price of admission.
RIP to the man, but his music will live on through CD’s and playlists until we all join him in the great wide open.