I don’t know if this is weird or not, but even though Tom Petty is one of my favourite recording artists of all time and is at least partially responsible for the creation of literally dozens of songs that I will love forever, I have no idea what my favourite Tom Petty song is. Since the news broke last night I’ve been trying to figure it out, but I just can’t. Although when I really stop and think about it, not knowing might be the highest compliment I could possibly pay Tom Petty the musician.
I feel like sentences similar to this perhaps get thrown around a little too much, but Tom Petty really does strike me as somebody who wrote a song for everyone. Whether you were looking for a loud song, a quiet song, a fast song, a slow song, a driving song, a song that feels like it’s speaking to you alone, a song everybody can relate to, a love song, an angry song, a song to sing along to or a song about some sort of new beginning, odds are you could find one with his name on it. Odds are also that you could find many of those qualities in a single song, because so many of them are just that well crafted. It’s not easy to write a simple song that millions of people are going to want to listen to for decades, but somehow Tom Petty managed to do it over and over and over again, I dare say more than almost anyone.
Ok, back to me for a second.
I still don’t have the foggiest clue what my favourite Tom Petty song is, but I knew immediately which one I’d choose if I could only share one here.
When this came out, I was doing some very small time radio. And while I’m extremely proud of that fact because it means that I achieved one of my life’s longest dreams, it was also pretty clear that for a lot of reasons it was never going to be the career my imagination had drawn it up to be. I think that somewhere inside me I’d known that for a while, but then Tom Petty and his damn song walked up and punched me right in the emotions.
No, nothing super dramatic happened after that. I didn’t march in and quit the next day. But when it was time to go, that 3 and a half minutes helped me make some sense out of how I felt about it. To this day listening to it still makes me a little sad, but that’s what good songs and great songwriters do. They make you feel something. They help you sort things out. They help get you through. I hope Tom Petty knew how many people he did that for.