By Amber Nicol
Tom Petty was a Florida boy.
He was born a Libra, in Gainesville on Oct. 20, 1950, a true artist with an incredible biography and a whole lot of U.S. American soul.
Sure, he didn’t have the greatest voice that ever rang out on a radio, didn’t have the most handsome of looks to ever have graced the pages of a magazine — but damn, could he write a song. And man, did he have passion and heart!
Who doesn’t love a good Tom Petty track? “American Girl,” “Breakdown,” “Mary Jane’s last Dance,” “Free Fallin’,” “Refugee,” “I Won’t Back Down”— I mean these are some of the first songs musicians learn, and grew up on.
These are the songs of an U.S. American childhood, regardless of age.
He’s a classic, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, a Hollywood star and he will live on through his well-crafted lyrics, influencing generations to come.
Tom Petty sold over 80 million records during his lifetime, making him one of the top selling artists ever, giving him a permanent billing in music history. How about a round of applause for his final bow?
This man lived a sensitive life, complicated with a childhood of abuse inflicted by his own father, decades of battling drug addiction — and then just tack on all the same kinds of life struggles we all face.
What’s most beautiful about Petty, is that he didn’t feel the need to hide any of that from us. He was a pretty in touch kind of dude. He was a loving father to his daughters, and he had the admiration of just about every musician who ever set foot on a stage after him.
It seems to me that he channeled all of his worries and woes into his music, and in doing so he created a beautiful gift for us to enjoy and reflect upon. Petty had this incredible knack for making millions of people feel suddenly understood and not so alone. He brought people together in a timeless way. He made us happy, and for a few moments we were free falling.
How many joints have been smoked to “Mary Jane’s Last Dance?” How many kegs have been tapped to “American Girl?”
Tom Petty brought the party. But for all the tremendous success he experienced over the course of his life, he didn’t even see his first number one album until 2014.
All those years, he was just getting warmed up! He left us too soon, passing from our lives just weeks before his 67th birthday, but he will missed and remembered, and added to mix tapes and streamed on laptops– and one day, we’ll all wind up, “in between a memory and a dream.”
I sure hope they have jam sessions in heaven.
Featured image: Tom Petty live in Faengslet, Horsens, Denmark, 2012. COURTESY of Wikimedia commons.