I Miss Tom Petty

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything outside of Pet of the Week. Mostly, I don’t have anything to say and my rule has been, if it’s not from the heart, don’t write it. Even though my internet footprint is small, I don’t want to sacrifice my perceived quality in the name of putting out trash.

NPR had an article the other day about one of my favorite songs, “I Won’t Back Down”. In it, Tom’s loved ones talked about the song and what it meant to him, the band, his family but the most powerful part was the personal stories. I implore everyone to take a read as I’ve done the dirty work and linked it as well as “coded” it to open in a new tab, but there are some powerful testaments. I’d be lying if many of them didn’t bring me to tears.

I’ve never personally met Mr. Petty. I would like to think he’d be cool if I called him Tom so I’m going to call him that in the rest of this diatribe. I did attend a show of his in 2008 with my then girlfriend. That relationship ended as many college ones do, a few months later. He was there for me when what I thought was the end of the world was merely a bump in the road and that there was so much more.

Recently, we all had a chat and someone (alright it was Noam) who said (paraphrase), “Creativity is like a muscle, you gotta use it” I thought about that a lot and realized how true it is. Shortly after, I was listening to some tunes, namely, Dan Deacon’s “Feel the Lightning” which is awesome. In it, he sings,”

The first time they heard the song from Tom Petty
The one where Johnny Depp plays the rebel named Eddie
The sky was the limit and then it came crashing down

I’m not sure why but between Noam’s quote and Mr. Deacon’s song, or the gratuitous amount of King of the Hill that me and Mrs. Madoff watch before bed, but I realize I miss Tom Petty. For those that don’t know, Tom played a character named Lucky Kleinschmidt, a character written to look like, “Tom Petty without the success.” Lucky’s magnus opum was slipping on pee-pee at Costco which got him a modest lawsuit check to live on aka living the dream.

It stuck out to me that one of my comedic heroes, Mike Judge, wrote about Tom when they asked him to be Lucky, “And we thought, what if we tried to get Tom Petty?” Judge recalled. “And he said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’ And he was great, just killed at the table read. Then he said, ‘Any time you want me to do it, I’ll do it.’ Turns out he really meant it.”

How can someone I’ve never met have such a profound effect on someone? I have no idea. Tom’s always been there for me though, his lyrics, his songs, his insight as Lucky Kleinschmidt during his voice acting at King of the Hill. “Sometimes the world is cruel to shiny things” makes me laugh as much as it is true.

I skipped seeing Tom Petty the year he passed away. Me and the Mrs. planned to see him at Red Rocks but even with literally four computers trying to get tickets, they sold out in seconds. He was slated to go to Pittsburgh too, but I saw Wilco two days before and didn’t feel like driving back up again because my car is a piece of shit and it was more money spent. Wilco put on a killer show and I was hungover for two days. He’d be touring next summer, whatever, right?

Tom passed away because he hurt himself but wanted to fill his tour obligation. I don’t think he’d say I let him down and he’d understand. If you read the NPR article above (here I linked it again, close my shit article and go fucking read it), you’ll know that someone burned his house down for no reason. What’d he do? He fucking penned the anthem known today as “Won’t Back Down.”

Even though he’s gone, I still hear him everywhere. His music has always found me at a time when it needed to. He’s the DJ at my tailgates. The albums for long drives. He’s always there for the down on their luck. He’s always got the back of the little guy. You always think he’ll be there for you. Until he isn’t. Music is culture and behind every lyric is a story. It’s a way to connect to your fellow humans much as I hope this article does.

1 comment

  1. The last story in that article, about the single dad making the guitar for his son GUTTED ME.

    My story about that song: I graduated from the University of Florida in 2015 (Tom Petty is from Gainesville, where UF is) and I love football and try and go up for one or two games a year. I am in south Florida now so it’s a bit of a hike. Anyways, the game I went to in 2017 was the UF v. LSU game a few days after Tom Petty died. Well UF has a bunch of traditions for football as it is, but my favorite is between the third and fourth quarter we sign this song called “We Are the Boys”. So it’s that time and the stadium is packed as it always is for LSU and after we sing we are the boys, over the speakers you start hearing “I Won’t Back Down” and very shortly the entire Swamp is singing it at the top of their lungs swaying along for the entirety of the song. It was supposed to be a one off thing to give tribute to Tom Petty but not it’s part of the normal traditions.


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