…Tom Petty

8 Oct 2017, 10:42 a.m. CDT, Ferndale, AR

Some say life may beat you down. It’ll break your heart, steal your crown.

So incredibly true, Mr. Petty, so true.

So many of us are learning to fly. So many of us learned to fly, or were at least inspired to try, by Mr. Petty’s words in his songs over the last 40-odd years. Personally, I started listening in the 70s, not really knowing who he was, since I was a little kid, but remembering fondly all of the songs he sand during those days.

Roll forward to the 80s, when my musical heyday emerged when I was a student in high school. We jammed to many songs over the years, the anthems, the melodies, the fun songs. It was good – all of it. That was the thing about Petty – everything was enjoyable. Everything.

1989 found me moving to college and finally getting to watch MTV, since we never had cable in the country setting where I grew up. Over that year and the few that followed, I watched more MTV than just about anything else, still recalling vividly Mary Jane’s Last Dance, Free Fallin’, and Don’t Come Around Here No More. All beautifully-crafted with Petty’s slow melodic voice fronting a background of harmonies well-developed and blended just right.

2005 found me marrying my Prince Charming (aka “Sweetie”), who looked amazingly similar to Petty, even to this day. Lean, tall, lanky, laid back, and somewhat medicated (at least in the 80s), he combined both the most wonderful loving personality with rock-star appearance, which for this 80s girl was the best of both worlds.

We attended two Petty concerts over the past few years, and after so many concerts between us, we still believe the 40-year tour was the best concert we’ve ever seen. Petty, at 66, still rocked on, jamming in the sessions, acting out the Don’t Come Around Here persona he created in the MTV video years ago, smiling through the entire set. Yes, a little less dance-around-the-stage, but so were we. The music, the ambiance, the atmosphere in the arena that evening were just as high as they were in the old days. It was magical.

During the break between Joe Walsh and Petty’s coming on stage, I told Sweetie that I needed another bottle of water, so I snuck down and bought him a t-shirt, and I had my photo taken with a top hat at a display they’d set up just for that sort of thing. I didn’t get a shirt for myself, something I now obviously regret, but he was surprised at his. I might have worn it to work last week, just to show my support for Petty, his music, and his career, as well as the fact that I can since I work for myself. No one to disagree, you see.

I was on the phone last Tuesday, a friend sitting across the desk from me, when he whispered the news. I simply could not get off the phone, and I honestly paid nearly no attention to the caller after that point. I’m sorry if it was you, but I sort of felt like you were stealing my ability to shock and grieve. I started immediately texting my friends, and Sweetie, who was shocked as well. I could hardly wait to get off the phone so that I could just sit and think about it. I needed that, you see.
Petty’s death at 66 came as a shock to us all. Those who loved him personally, those who loved his music, and those who loved his music but didn’t realize it was his. The Gators’ tribute, spoiled a bit by the typical-rude LSU fanbase, was immensely overwhelming. If only I’d been at The Swamp for it. If only.

I sit here on a Sunday afternoon. Sweetie is gone on a business trip for a couple of days. The house, way too quiet for me to sit through, is ringing with Petty tunes, courtesy of Alexa. She’s gotten me through this week. Long ago, I was not able to work while the radio was in the background as I couldn’t seem to concentrate. Maybe now that’s what my mind needs, kind of like the food truck vendor told me a frito chili pie was what my body needed after a night of celebrating a bit too much when we heard about and were mourning our beloved rock-star, Petty. I think we needed the celebration, as well, honestly. It’s been a long time coming.

October, notoriously my favorite month but with two of my least favorite days of the year sprinkled in the middle, started off like crap. The horrific Las Vegas shootings were reported the same day as Petty’s death. Hopefully it will end better. Hopefully those two days won’t haunt me like they typically do. I can only hope, but no guarantee. That’s what it’s all about, really. Learning to Fly.

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