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Thanks For The Music

Another icon of music has passed away, and it never gets easier. I wrote last year, in the wake of Merle Haggard’s passing (and literally everyone else who passed by April 6th), that it wasn’t just this guitarist or singer or writer or actor who passed. It wasn’t that you’ll never hear another song from them, or see another film they’re in. It’s that a part of who you are is now gone. The memories are there. So that part is still there.

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I’ve spoken before about how my dad raised me on classic rock. Always making mix-tapes for my sister and me. The first music I can remember listening to is Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys and Creedence Clearwater Revival. That was one tape with numerous other artists. The Bobby Fuller Four, John Denver, The Lovin’ Spoonful. One tape he gave me was essentially Tom Petty’s greatest hits, before an official Greatest Hits album was put out. It was nothing but Petty. So while I was familiar with a bunch of different artists before this tape, this Tom Petty tape was the first time I was really able to dive into an artist’s output.

This was before I started developing my own tastes and got into 90s grunge and alt-rock. Before I got into hip-hop. Before I got into country. Tom Petty was an artist I knew and could recognize and could enjoy and so much branched off from there. It guided my rock tastes. It guided my country tastes. You can hear his influence in some of my favorite artists, including Dwight Yoakam. A lot of that has to do with being a rock star, but an “everyman” rock star. He wasn’t this big audacious personality, and he wasn’t singing about glories and excess. He was writing and singing about what we could all relate to. He was almost singing country songs, just on a harsher, non-steel guitar.

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But beyond being instrumental and influential in my own musical tastes, there’s that close tie to memories of jamming to music with my dad. Hanging out with him in the basement, his man-cave before man-caves were a thing, and him putting a record on. That’s what Tom Petty represents. Those memories are still there, they’re still a part of me, but the architect of those memories, the mechanism of those memories… that’s gone.

So when that architect of memories passes, the best way I know how to honor them is to thank them. Thank them for their music. For their films. For their writing. For their jokes. Whoever they were to me, whatever memories they helped craft, I have to thank them for that.

Thanks for the music, Tom Petty.

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