The numbing particulars of what occurred in Las Vegas have been nonetheless pouring in. I already was feeling unhappy, indignant, drained.
After which an alert pops up and says Tom Petty is lifeless.
I used to be stunned how onerous this hit me, the way it appeared unfair to have yet one more piece of dangerous information added to this present day, this yr.
Not that I’ve any purpose to really feel this manner. If something, I ought to really feel lucky. I didn’t lose my residence in a hurricane. I didn’t lose a beloved one in Las Vegas. And I didn’t know Tom Petty.
However I do know I wasn’t alone in my response his demise at age sixty six. A Los Angeles Occasions story described how over the past forty years, Petty managed to write down songs that felt as in the event that they have been part of our private soundtracks. The headline stated, “Why dropping Tom Petty looks like dropping a bit of ourselves.”
Nowhere is that extra true than right here in North Florida.
Petty was born in Gainesville on Oct. 20, 1950. And though he ended up heading to Southern California, he and his music remained tied to North Florida.
When the Gainesville Solar posted affirmation of the dying, the story opened with a quote from Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell. And it’s not simply the phrases that make it becoming, it’s this element: the sheriff is Petty’s first cousin.
“Tommy’s sudden and premature dying surprised us,” she stated. “He was an excellent artist and songwriter. To the world, he was Tom or TP; to us he was and eternally shall be ‘Tommy’ and one among a sort.”
Gainesville was my entry level to Florida. I adopted a Missouri woman right here within the Nineteen Eighties, rolling down the home windows and cranking up “American Woman.”
Once I got here to Florida, I wolfed up Carl Hiaasen novels and Dave Barry columns. I listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jimmy Buffett and Tom Petty. However whereas the Skynyrd and Buffett inevitably appeared to be their previous stuff — earlier than the aircraft crash in 1977, earlier than “Margaritaville” turned a sequence of eating places — it was totally different with Petty’s music.
His previous stuff, beginning in 1976 with the self-titled “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers,” was exceptional. Nevertheless it was hardly the top. With Petty, his record of iconic songs, and America’s appreciation of them, continued to develop.
Toni and I noticed him on the O’Connell Middle in 1991, a cease on the “Into the Nice Broad Open” tour. It was October, soccer season, his first present in his hometown in a very long time. Earlier than the present, Petty and his bandmates put their arms in a…