Thanks, my friend, I hope it helped a little.

It was part of my grieving process to spend a few hours writing about the artist and the concert. I read a number of other articles by people processing their grief, which was helped me, too. One guy went much further than I did in examining the cultural and political undertones in some Tom Petty songs that may have kept him so popular with white conservatives. It was a pretty interesting analysis, but some of the conclusion were too over the top and harsh for this moment in time:

Some interesting ideas:

I think this loser-y, everyman quality that is the foundation of so many of Petty’s songs is the very thing that sustained his 40 year career. He appealed to losers — like me — who probably thought they got a bum wrap in life, thought that they were owed something or that most of their problems were brought about by something or someone other than their own mediocrity. His music didn’t invent this sentiment, but the pervasiveness of the sentiment — and the ubiquity of folks who felt it — nurtured his music.

Recently, I’ve been struggling to come to terms with this aspect of Petty’s music. I’ve started to shudder at some of the more obvious and ham-handed appeals to some of his audience bases. I can look back at the thinly veiled pro-Confederate sentiments of “Southern Accents” and “Rebels” as being of a moment in Petty’s career in which his musical inclinations were pulled in equal parts between California and Florida, between the folksy and experimental sensibilities of the Byrds and the good ol’ boy Appalachia of Lynard Skynard. I can even forgive Petty’s obnoxious pander to pro-America vengeful patriotism when he played “Won’t Back Down” for the 9/11 memorial album America: A Tribute to Heroes, even though other Heartland rockers such as Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young opted for mournful and reflective pieces about love and loss.

But “Forgotten Man” from 2014’s Hypnotic Eye? Ostensibly a song about love lost, “Forgotten Man” was the song that triggered my suspicion of Tom Petty. I guess I sort of realized then that Petty was an artist still making radio-ready tunes 35 years into his career, so I know I certainly couldn’t have been the only one listening to him. He had a larger audience. And much of this larger audience had been listening to his songs very differently than I had been.

Even the Losers is one of my all-time favorite Tom Petty songs, and his lyrics are brilliant. Given his nasal voice and tendency to speak-sing off the background music, he was more like Bob Dylan-like, than people realize:

Well it was nearly summer, we sat on your roof
Yeah we smoked cigarettes and we stared at the moon
And I showed you stars you never could see
Babe, it couldn’t have been that easy to forget about me

Baby time meant nothin’ anything seemed real
Yeah you could kiss like fire and you made me feel
Like every word you said was meant to be
Babe, it couldn’t have been that easy to forget about me

Baby even the losers
Get lucky sometimes
Even the losers
Keep a little bit of pride
They get lucky sometimes

Two cars parked on the overpass
Rocks hit the water like broken glass
Should have known right then it was too good to last

It’s such a drag when you live in the past

Those are incredibly powerful images of lost love, not too far removed from

I ain’t a-saying you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don’t mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right

Here’s my favorite video of the two nasal members of the Traveling Wilburys singing like twins (or father and son) in the first chorus:

I can’t imagine a better dream as a younger musician to have been allowed to join Harrison, Dylan and Orbison in that group.

Tom Petty made a career of singing for the losers, but gods he was one of the biggest winners in the game of life ever.

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Ad agency creative director, writer & designer at https://guttmanshapiro.com. Former pro tennis player and peak performance coach for professional athletes.

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