“I’m gonna free fall out into nothing. I’m gonna leave this world for a while. And I’m free, free fallin’.” – Tom Petty, Free Fallin’
I love when guitars sound like they’re crying; the gentle plucking of chords carrying the weight of a million emotions. Before synthesizers and computer-generated sounds, musicians learned how to spin feeling out of thin air by putting words to paper and nimble fingers to strings: Otis Redding. Jimi Hendrix. B.B. King. George Harrison.
One of my favorite guitar intros comes from a Tom Petty song, Free Fallin’. It pushes and pulls me through memories; the smell of smoke rising from a bonfire, the sunrise splashed across the horizon during early morning road trips. Mary Jane’s Last Dance brings me to smoking joints at the base of Lake Tahoe. I Won’t Back Down was my anthem during high school’s onslaught of bullies and miscreants.
And Refugee…well, Refugee got me though the 2016 election.
Today, on the day of Tom Petty’s passing, I remember every memory he has gifted me with through the sheer force of his music. Tom Petty may be gone, and this may seem as another blow dealt by the universe on an already tragic day, but his mark upon this planet will not be forgotten. His music narrates a universally shared struggle, pricks the wounds caused by the common issues we all deal with as humans. We coalesce to let songs caress our ears and nurse our wounded hearts and souls. We have declared music something worth believing in, a powerful force that rivals any religious faction or chemical substance; a powerful force that transcends death itself.
Rest in Peace, Tom Petty. You will be missed, but never forgotten.