My Favorite Tom Petty Song
Tom Petty died this week and, at the age of 66, way too soon.
I never had the opportunity to see him in concert, but his songs are certainly woven into the soundtrack of my life.
From the Heartbreakers' first studio album in 1976, with "Breakdown" and "American Girl", it was obvious that Tom Petty was going to be successful.
From his work with the Heartbreakers and the Travelin' Wilburys to his duets, special appearances, and his solo work, Tom Petty left us with loads of great music.
I liked his gritty rock-and-roll songs as much as I liked his "lighter" stuff, and it would be tough to have to choose between the two.
But, out of all of his work, there is one song that sticks out most to me. It's not his best-known; it's not one of his "gritty" works; it's not even a song that made it onto the music charts: it's just a song that made it into my heart. "Wildflowers".
Why does this song speak to my heart? Well, it stems from something that I learned from my dad. He taught me that no one ever truly belongs to anyone else, as we all need a sense of freedom. He demonstrated with this visual: he said "Imagine you are at the beach, and you have a handful of sand. When you squeeze your hand around the sand, what happens?" I replied, "The sand runs through your fingers, and there's little left in your hand." He said "Exactly. If you try to hold on too tight, it'll run through your fingers."
It took me a while to realize what he was saying: the beauty of finding the right person in your life comes when that person chooses to no longer be "free", and to be yours. You can't be forceful or hold on too tight, so-to-speak.
"Wildflowers" reminds me of that conversation with my dad. In the song, Tom Petty says "you belong somewhere you feel free." It is my wish for everyone in this world: find someone with whom you can still be free.
Performing Songwriter sat with Tom Petty a few years back to get a glimpse into the stories behind the songs, and Petty had this to say about "Wildflowers":
I just took a deep breath and it came out. The whole song. Stream of consciousness: words, music, chords. Finished it. I mean, I just played it into a tape recorder and I played the whole song and I never played it again. I actually only spent three and a half minutes on that whole song. So I’d come back for days playing that tape, thinking there must be something wrong here because this just came too easy. And then I realized that there’s probably nothing wrong at all. - Tom Petty, PerformingSongwriter.com
Amazing: the song you hear on the CD is the song as it was originally written and recorded.
As with any artist, Tom Petty meant a great deal to so many people, all in a unique way. From the lyrics to the music, from the voice to the stage presence, people saw different aspects of the man that made him larger than life. To many in the music industry, Tom Patty wasn't a superstar or an idol or even "the greatest player ever". We call musicians like Tom Petty two things: solid, and underrated.
"If you believe in forever, Then life is just a one-night stand.
If there's a rock and roll heaven, Well you know they've got a hell of a band." - Johnny Stevenson / Alan O'Day