rip tom petty

The death of Tom Petty is terrible, shocking, dare I say heartbreaking news. From the moment I heard those unmistakeable first notes of "American Girl," I was hooked. I was a teenager when Petty first fought the battle to hold down the price of records. (Archival story about that here.) It would be the first of many battles for him, and he was always on the side of the good -- musicians and fans.

I didn't like all his music, and disliked some of his biggest hits, but once you saw Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers live, you never forgot them. They were a bar band, writ large -- pared down, straightforward, bash, pop, and plenty of swing. I loved Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell, and the energy between all the performers was electrifying.

This is a really sad and unexpected loss. The teenage American girl inside me is devastated.


allan said...

That is such a perfect pop song. A fantastic opening line - "Well, she was an American girl, raised on promises" - and a superb second verse that's both specific and universal (which all great pop songs have to be, I think) with the right mix of poetic imagery and a sense of yearning and helplessness:

It was kind of cold that night, she stood alone on her balcony
She could hear the cars roll by, out on 441, like waves crashing on the beach
And for one desperate moment there, he crept back in her memory
God, it's so painful, something that's so close and still so far out of reach

Another one from that Midnight Special broadcast: I Need To Know. ... And a cover of So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star from the mid-80s(?).

laura k said...

a sense of yearning and helplessness

You nailed it. I think that's what spoke to me. It's a great song, for sure, but not every great song feels so personal.


deang said...

Like you, I disliked his some of his most popular output. Plus, I was one of those "underground" music snobs as a teenager who was determined to dislike anything too popular, but I vaguely remembered hearing that Petty was a Springsteen-style, truly good, left-leaning person, and I had it confirmed this week on learning that he had made statements supportive of Black Lives Matter, Colin Kaepernik, and others. Hate to see a person like that go.

laura k said...

Dean, I hear ya. I was a music snob, too. Where I grew up, early Tom Petty was underground and rocking.

Then once I saw him live, and I knew how great his shows were, I continued to see them, even when I was less than thrilled with their current music. They never disappointed.

And yeah, he was a man of the people. I think somehow he never forgot his working class roots.