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The Day Tom Petty Died


Music is… Nice

I like music. And that’s about the sum of it.

I like it. I think it’s “nice.” And if I told you that I’ve been waiting for that one song to just “get me”… well… I’d be lying. I like what I like, and that’s that. I didn’t get the appeal of Nirvana. Jerry Garcia’s passing didn’t scar me; and I couldn’t name a Phish song if my life depended on it.

My husband, on the other hand, loves to have music on and is always tweaking what we are listening to so that it matches the mood of the moment. We’ve got running mixes that finely tune the beat of the songs to the pace of your stride. Biking mixes to help get you through a 50-mile ride. “Chill” mixes for having friends over; “Hats and Horses” mixes for when you just want to sing along to each dern country song, and “Punk goes Pop” cover mixes for when you want Phil Collins with an edge. All the Nonpoint fans out there will know the version of “In the Air Tonight” that I’m talking about.

And I love these mixes. I always enjoy them and am glad to sing along (…or make the requisite face if a song comes on that I don’t like). If it’s from the 80s, it’s most definitely my jam.

But the thing is, I am never the one to “turn the radio on” so to speak in our house. Never. Not even with Spotify downloaded on all of our devices. Left on my own, I stream NPR because the sounds of Kai Ryssdal and Steve Inskeep just soothe my soul. Radio angels, I say, and I wouldn’t even call myself a news junkie. NPR is like coffee to me. I just need it in the morning. 

And Then Tom Petty Died

The news of Tom Petty’s untimely passing this past week shocked and saddened music-lovers, -likers, and average, casual listeners across the country. Across the globe even. And I’m probably the most ill-equipped “fan” of all to be writing a eulogy of sorts for him. But here I am. Surprisingly, it has been his passing this week that’s tuning me back into the importance of music and memory making.

Within hours of his confirmed death, my college roommate texted me. The economy of effort that’s become the norm of today reduced her shock and awe of, “Oh my goodness, can you believe Tom Petty is dead? I am so upset!” to “Tom Petty <sad face>.” But I knew just what she was trying to say.

Because my fingers were reaching for my phone to text her just the same.

Wildflowers in the Corners of My Mind

From the fall of 1995 through the spring of 1996 at a little school in upstate New York, Tom Petty’s Wildflowers album was our sage, our salve, and our get-up-and-go. We listened to that album A LOT. And by a lot, I mean nonstop. Nonstop to such a degree that during a weekend we were away, our hall mates broke into our room and held the CD hostage claiming we’d been abusing not only Tom but all of the Heartbreakers with our obsessive fandom.

We were relentless. Within days, we had him back.

That one text brought memories flooding back from the corners of my mind: nervous first-dates (listening to “You Don’t Know How it Feels”), giggly getting-ready-together Saturday nights when we were trying to decide which of our flannel shirts to wear out for the evening (crooning “It’s Good to Be King” and “You Wreck Me”), and O-M-G-we’re-hungover-and-have-papers-to-write Sunday mornings (thank you “Wake Up Time”). Memories I haven’t thought of in a long, long time.

But memories inextricably linked to Tom Petty nonetheless. And I could go on and on. Dang we loved that album.

Tuning Back In

So this week, I’m tuning back in. I’m making that effort to fill our home with song as a backdrop to the everyday moments. If I can stick with it, it’s my hope that every now and again a song will stick so tightly to a new memory that it can’t ever be lost to the mental cobwebs.

Because there was nothing better for this American girl than going free fallin’ back to 18 like I did earlier this week.

And if you like great tributes, this one is pretty fantastic: