The Dailies

Word of the Day

Fluted (adj., FLOO-tedd)

Ridged or grooved, or to play music in a flutelike tone. Both of these things are not to be flouted.

Gif of the Day

TagsAnimalsPigCookieAllllmost thereNom nom nomSticking your nose into something?

Link of the Day

RIP Tom Petty

On an old website that we used to frequent, there was a picture of a long-haired man with sunglasses and a fedora in the right sidebar. Next to it, the caption read, “Click here if you absolutely must hear some Tom Petty right now.” The button was as advertised. A click granted you a popup with a random Tom Petty live song from a curated list of about twenty.

It was at this website that I began to appreciate Thomas Earl Petty. It isn’t just for his music, as remarkably well-observed, tight, and enduring as it is. As the website noted, there were plenty of young men with guitars, long hair, and reedy voices in Florida during the 1970s, but Petty is by far the most famous and the most loved. It’s because Tom Petty was unmistakably a man of the people.

In 1980, Petty got into a battle with his record label over one dollar. Petty’s previous album, Damn the Torpedoes, had been certified triple platinum. Petty’s distributing label had been bought, and the new label wanted to release his new album at $9.98—“superstar pricing”—instead of the regular $8.98 price. Petty objected to the price hike. At one point, Petty threatened to title the album Eight Ninety-Eight; at another, he considered not delivering the album. The studio caved, releasing an album aptly titled Hard Promises.

Petty was famous for his collaborations with other musicians, especially those in difficult times. It was Petty who reached out to Bob Dylan during a dark period in Dylan’s life, recruiting him to join The Traveling Wilburys on tour. It was Petty who called Dave Grohl after Kurt Cobain’s suicide, offering him the drumming job with The Heartbreakers. It was Petty who consistently worked with Stevie Nicks, sharing the Heartbreakers as a backing band.

And it’s Petty who wrote so, so many songs that invite you to sing along. Petty was a good enough singer that you could sing along and sound better than the singer without mocking the singer’s talent. The singing perfectly complemented the writing of many American classics. Free Falling. American Girl. Refugee. Wildflowers. Breakdown. Mary Jane’s Last Dance. The Waiting. Won’t Back Down. If you want to see how good Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were, listen to all four discs of The Live Anthology. There are no duds throughout the collection, and the crowd is singing throughout.

In a way, Tom Petty’s legacy is quiet faithfulness. Only his last album hit number 1 on the charts. He was never THE popular act at any point in his career but also never cashing on on nostalgia for a time when his songwriting was better. Four decades of music, touring, and engaging with the crowd. Rather than being a sad coda to a once-glorious career, Hypnotic Eye is a fitting victory lap for someone who had labored long to build a tremendous fan base that loved his plainspoken insight on relationships, place, and people. What more could you ask for?.

TagsMusicTom PettyEulogiesHard PromisesAlright for now?