R.I.P Tom Petty

Some artists stick with you, through good times and bad, like a trusted friend you’ve never met.

I remember the first time I heard Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It was 1979 and I was a junior in high school — the song was Refuge. As soon as I heard that song, it resonated with me. I loved the musical snarl and punch, I loved Petty’s drawl and attitude, I loved everything about it.

It’s a curious thing how we connect to artists – musicians specifically. For me and Tom Petty, it was a convergence of things — a perfect storm of his aggressive-edged rock and roll and my teen angst, bottled-up energy, insecurity, and the malaise of adolescence.

When I first heard Refuge in 1979, it felt like chemical reaction in my mind. For three minutes and twenty-two seconds, I felt clarity, like the song physically pushed shit aside in my head – so it was just me and the music – I remember there was something pure about the experience. I suppose that’s why I kept going back to Tom Petty for 38 years – and he never disappointed. For me, that’s what was so special about Tom Petty – he grew as an artist — aged gracefully, which allowed me to grow with him. As much as I loved Refugee as a teenager, listening to that song as an adult was mostly a way of reconnecting to my youth. As Tom matured, he became a master songwriter, tapping into the complexities of human relationships – doing so with sparse simple language – clarity.

When I heard Tom Petty had died, I cried — sitting alone in front of my laptop. With a conference call a little over an hour away, I got up, found my iPod, connected it to a Bluetooth speaker, turned up the volume, hit shuffle, and cried a little more.

Later that afternoon, I went into my son’s room, he was hunched over his laptop, I touched him on the shoulder and he broke — we both did — had a real good cry – together.

Tom Petty was an integral part of my life – from adolescence to fatherhood, he was my go-to artist — always a drop of the needle away, a CD shuffle away, or an iPod click away — he never failed to lift me and help me through.

R.I.P. Tom Petty.


1 Comment

  1. That pretty much sums it up. We all think of our buddy Geof when we think of or hear Petty. It’s all intertwined and part of our enduring memories of growing up and the soundtrack that was playing in the background of our lives. R.I.P.


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