I remember the first time I saw Tom Petty.
It was the “Refugee” music video. I remember thinking, who is this horse faced dude ridiculously creeping around an abandoned building? I laughed at his long blonde hair and funny facial expressions as he traipsed from pole to pole. But as I listened to the music, I realized I really liked the guy. I asked my mom who it was and she told me Tom Petty, her favorite singer.
She was watching some kind of “Best Of” DVD and I ended up sitting there watching the whole thing with her, drawn in by how different Petty’s voice sounded. This was 2007 and I was about to graduate eighth grade. Almost exactly one year later, I saw Mr. Integrity himself live for the first time out of the four I would be privileged to get.
A bit of my Tom Petty memorabilia.
Tom was the master of casual storytelling. Able to craft complex but digestible lyrics packed with real emotion and human lessons all while remaining tethered to his southern fried rock and roll roots. Always being able to provide needed perspective like:
To not listen to people who try to tell you how to live your life. To not let life become LIFE and overwhelm you. To just try your best. To love your friends and lovers while you can. To be patient. To have fun. To be creative. To know it’s okay to feel absolutely awful sometimes and to stand up for what you believe in no matter what.
I’ve had happy times with Tom and plenty of sad ones too. From singing and dancing my heart out in the pouring rain at his Wrigley Field show just four months ago to laying on my college apartment floor sobbing, thinking my depression was quite literally going to kill me while listening to the Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) album.
I have memories of all kinds with Tom.
A photo of a photo from the second time I saw Tom live in 2010.
The first song I ever nervously sang at karaoke was “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” a duet with my friend Brett.
The joy of having a kid who attended a talk I gave once about writing find me afterwards to tell me he liked my Damn the Torpedoes shirt.
Still feeling the regret of passing up that random “For Promotional Use” only single I found at my school’s record store.
Being upgraded to main floor at Wrigley because a lady named Marge who worked for the Cubs saw I was alone at the show and knew there was open seats down closer.
There’s already been tons written about Tom today from major publications, most factual, covering his musical accomplishments and life. But I thought sharing something more personal from the eyes of a fan would mean a little more.
Below are a few of the t-shirts my mom and I have bought at his concerts or made in anticipation for them. Tossing on a record while crafting them was always the best part.
So, while Tom’s life hangs in the balance, I just wish him peace. Because that’s all he has ever given to me.
Tom, I know the waiting is the hardest part, but as you learn to fly towards the great wide open today, my heart breaks.