Tom Petty: 1950-2017


A salutation by Shawn “Speedy” Lopes

I was too young to earn an allowance, but I just knew I had to have it.

I’d hear it on the radio, in record stores or in video game parlors. I recall seeing a music video or two before we even knew what to call them.

It seemed so potent and irresistible then. Still does. The whirling Hammond, punchy snare, swaggering guitar and Tom Petty’s unmistakeable voice, crowing and moaning in that languid drawl of indeterminate origin.

In my life, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Damn the Torpedoes has been an actual reference point; one that immediately prefaced significant events: the introduction of the Walkman in America, the advent of MTV, puberty.

Damn the Torpedoes-era Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

In time, there would also be relationships, each of which Petty seemed to have an appropriate anecdote for. It was as if he had a perfect tune or lyric for every imperfect love affair i’d endure.

Because he wrote with such straightforwardness and candor, his timeless compositions, which chronicled everything from the uncertainty of courtship (“Shadow of a Doubt”) to commitment and devotion (“Here Comes My Girl”) to two-timing and love lost (“Don’t Do Me Like That”, “Baby You Tell Me”), could well have been plucked from my own collection of barroom confessions decades into the future.

Every now and again, in fact, upon securing the affections of women probably too beautiful or wonderful for me, I’d remember how Petty sang “Even the losers get lucky sometimes”.

Thomas Earl Petty, in his own brilliant way, let us know that to desire is instinctive, to love is essential, to lose is expected. And for that, I salute one of the greatest natural songwriters rock and roll has ever known.

Tom Petty: 1950-2017

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