My favorite musician died last week.

Two days earlier I put both of my cats down.

Four months earlier I laid my mother to rest.

It’s been a hell of a year. Might take awhile to recover from 2017.

In honor of Tom Petty, here’s a list of my favorite music he made, along with the album each song is from. I’ve listened to a lot of Petty this week, and didn’t initially set out to make a list. Almost on a whim, I just started jotting down songs that I recognized as being my personal long-time favorites. I had my entire collection on shuffle, so nothing was predictable. I was surprised when I went back to research which song came from which album, as I found that out of the eight songs I settled on, seven albums were represented. I guess I really do like everything he’s produced over the span of his incredible career.

You may not recognize some of these, and I encourage to you go find them on Pandora or Spotify or YouTube or whatever medium you use. It’s good stuff.

Thank you, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, for these many gifts. Here are my favorites, in no particular order:

  1. Insider (Hard Promises)
    Insider is a haunting duet with Stevie Nicks, a long-time friend and collaborator. He wrote it for Stevie, but she took “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” instead for her album. I don’t have favorite lines from this one…the whole thing just hangs together beautifully.
  2. Alright For Now (Full Moon Fever)
    A lullaby that now makes me cry every time I hear it.
  3. Wildflowers (Wildflowers)
    The other one that makes me cry now. Pair this with Alright For Now and I’m a blubbering idiot for an hour.
  4. Straight Into Darkness (Long After Dark)
    A mellow B-side that just slides along. Good song for driving.
  5. Walls (She’s the One)
    There are two versions of this, both are great. My favorite lines are the chorus: “You got a heart so big/It could crush this town/And I can’t hold out forever/Even walls fall down”
  6. You and I Will Meet Again (Into the Great Wild Open)
    Another smooth ride.
  7. Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna album)
    Tom and Mike Campbell wrote this for the Heartbreakers, but Jimmy Iovine arranged to have Stevie sing it with them in studio and then gave it to her. The Bella Donna version is great, obviously, but my favorite is the demo track included in Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Playback box set, on the Through the Cracks disc. It’s just Tom, and I adore the way he sings a few of my favorite lines: “So you’ve had a little trouble in town/Now you’re keeping some demon down” and “This doesn’t have to be the big get even/This doesn’t have to be anything at all” and “People runnin’ around loose in the world/Ain’t got nothin’ better to do/Than make a meal of some wide-eyed kid/You need someone lookin’ after you.” I also can’t get over Benmont Tench’s organ on this version.
  8. Crawling Back to You (Wildflowers)
    Another solid song from Wildflowers, which is chock full of hits. Rarely on his concert set list, which is disappointing. The lilting guitar, gorgeous piano, and phenomenal drumming match his brilliant lyrics. “Most things I worry about/Never happen anyway.” Sing it, Brother Tom.

Honorable Mentions: The Apartment Song, The Damage You’ve Done, Love is a Long Road, and You Wreck Me. Hell, I love all of his music (and I mean all of it…there’s not a single track I’ll hit “skip” on) so, in my mind, you can’t go wrong with any album.

Not only was the death of Tom Petty surprising, the amount of people who reached out to me that day blew me away. Clearly I have made my love of Heartbreaker music known. Apologies to everyone who has had to listen to me spout off about my favorite musician over the years. I am so grateful that I was finally able to see him live back in May. A simpler time, May…before everything blew up and loss decided to become a familiar friend. Right now I feel adrift, unmoored, floating out on a big ocean by myself. I’m clinging to my raft of memories, and counting on family and friends to keep me afloat. I’ll come back to shore at some point.

“I’d like to be cheerful again.” –Van Morrison, I’m Tired Joey Boy, covered by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in 1991

#blog#personal essay#petty#tribute#writing

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