Memories rushing in, like waves crashin' on the beach.
I'm a bad boy, 'cause I don't even miss her / I'm a bad boy, for breakin' her heart
Young and selfish, unhappy and escaping to a brighter, better place, self-preservation conquers regret, self-loathing replaced by a tentative confidence. A perfect song, this was on constant rotation during those years, both on MTV and inside my head.
I'll be the boy in the corduroy pants / you'll be the girl at the high school dance
Summer '95, outside, evening air, then-girlfriend, me, and 25,000 other voices, singing every word at the tops of our lungs, as if our very existence depended on it.
Sometimes you're happy / sometimes you cry / half of me is ocean / half of me is sky
'96, then-girlfriend is now ex-girlfriend, but hearing this then-new song helps me remember, and appreciate, a heart so big it could crush this town.
The waiting is the hardest part
Must've included this song on every mixtape I sent my wife when we were first dating, circa ‘96-‘97, expressing every ounce of longing, stretched across hundreds of miles between us. His words told our story, they felt personal, meant only for us. Later on I realized everyone felt this way about his music.
I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Live again, early aughts, now pretending to be an adult, a best friend and I still can't help but act like kids, energized by the music, fists in the air, singing ourselves hoarse.
You don't know how it feels to be me
I won't back down
Well I fought for you / and I fought too hard
She's an honest defector / conscientious objector / now her own protector
And the town lit up / the world got still
Songs of self-discovery, defiance, introversion-as-self-survival, rebellion, sincerity, transcendence. He was a Boomer, but children of the Boomers adopted him as our own; he was as cynical and as sincere as we were/are, and wasn't afraid to tell the world to fuck off when necessary. We idolized him. It was as if his words sprung from our own heads, fully formed.
His poster, a shot of him in studio, wearing his Chucks (just like us!), recording the Wildflowers album, hung in my dorm room. I didn't pray to it, but I might as well have: his music was a spiritual, religious experience. He gave us a voice, a way to see ourselves apart from how others saw us. When we listened to him, we believed in ourselves, even when (it seemed) no one else did.
Losing Tom Petty leaves a gaping hole. His family and friends have lost an important person in their lives; we've lost a voice that spoke to us of everything we ever felt, or ever needed. We’ll play his music today, then tomorrow, and any time after when we need a reminder of who we were, who we are, who we might still be.