At 8am on October 3rd, 2017, I was driving my youngest daughter, then ten years old, to school. Those drives were always fun as she’s a music fan like me and tends to prefer rock and roll over the pop hits of the day. As I listen to a lot of older artists, she developed a habit of asking me “Is he/she still alive Dad?”
On that cool, rainy morning, as the windshield wipers were slapping time, I was listening to a Tom Petty mix CD that happened to be in my van. The Waiting was playing and my daughter asked “Who’s this Dad?” “It’s Tom Petty sweetheart.” She then innocently asked “Who sings ’ won’t back down’? Is he still alive?” I can’t really explain the way my stomach sank at hearing those words and realizing that I didn’t want to answer that question, for the first time in all the times it had been asked. I couldn’t get the words “He died yesterday” out. They stuck in my throat and threatened to set off a flood of tears that would rival the steady rain we were driving through. I did eventually tell her that he had died yesterday and that I was feeling very sad about it. I think about that day quite often, especially as my daughter is now a fervent Tom Petty fan herself.
I consider how strange it is to mourn the loss of someone you never met and how profound that loss can feel. That sense of loss, amplified by the fact that I never got to see the Heartbreakers perform live was the shove I needed to really start listening much more closely to a songwriter and performer that I’d grown, very gradually, to admire a great deal. I’ve now become somewhat obsessed with Tom’s music and creative genius and I thought that one way to channel this obsession would be to record a podcast. This is that podcast. I hope you enjoy it.