We’ve lost so many music legends in the past few years: David Bowie, Prince, Gregg Allman, Chuck Berry, Walter Becker, Chris Cornell, Joe Cocker, Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, and now Tom Petty.
For some of us, losing an artist is like losing a friend. Music is an underrated source of comfort and friendship. Songs are vessels in which memories come alive again. Albums become soundtracks assigned to places, periods and people. And artists are friends we’ve never met personally, but with whom we share a common understanding. People that are gifted enough to share their music are offering more than a song. They’re offering the chance to relate to people they’ll never meet, on a level that goes beyond explanation.
I’ve never met Tom Petty, but he was still a friend. I remember dancing to “American Girl” as a kid after some girls danced to it in the school talent show, and I thought it was so cool. “She was an American Girl.” I remember listening to “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” the summer before college, absolutely thrilled with the possibilities to come. “I feel summer creepin’ in and I’m tired of this town again.” I remember listening to “Into The Great Wide Open” the summer after college, absolutely terrified with the lack of possibilities. “A rebel without a clue.” I biked to and from the station the summer of 2014 to “U Get Me High.” I probably listened to it 200 times that summer.
I grew up listening to Tom Petty on XRT, and now he’s kept me company in the middle of the night. And he still will, because he’s a friend.