by Alan Yudman

Hollywood and Whine is normally about Movies and TV. But today I wanted to share my thoughts on the passing of Tom Petty. Thanks for indulging me.

In 1989 I moved to Montana to run the news department at a TV station in Great Falls. I moved away from everything I had known. No family. No friends. But I always had music. And that music included Tom Petty.

I was flying solo. So was Petty. He released ‘Full Moon Fever’ that year, his first solo album without the Heartbreakers (never mind The Traveling Wilburys and Mudcrutch). Man that album spoke to me. It’s like Tom knew what was happening with me. It was a frustrating time professionally, lot’s of challenges. So ‘I Won’t Back Down’ inspired me. I had just started my career, so ‘Runnin’ Down a Dream’ felt like theme music. And then in times of frustration ‘Free Fallin’’ was like a warm blanket.

So Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have been with me all these years. Like a friend I could count on.

My favorite Petty song is ‘The Waiting’. Waiting for love and then finding it.. the song puts into words those feelings you have when it is all knew and you’ll do anything for her.

It took me way too long to see Petty in concert. The summer I first saw him I had planned to go to 2 concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. The Police was first. Petty followed a few weeks later. Frankly at that point I was more excited about The Police. They were reunited after years. But the concert was dull. Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland seemed to just be going through the motions. They seemed bored. Then the Petty concert arrived. I was blown away. I have seen Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band 10 times. They are the most moving shows I have ever seen in my life. Petty is second on the list. His passion for the music, his love of his fans and The Heartbreakers moved me. He was humble and thrilled to be on stage.

Then their 40th anniversary tour was announced and I got tickets as soon as they went on sale. Another night with Tom and the fellas would be great. And it was. His humor, his love of the fans and Los Angeles was obvious. He truly seemed to love, as he put it, droppin’ the needle on a big old LP and playing songs he loved. He didn’t play ‘The Waiting’ which was a bit disappointing, but I though ‘next time’. Now there will be no next time.

The surprising news of Petty’s death knocked me off my feet. Literally. I had read it on my phone and immediately fell back into a chair and wept. Not Tom! He was so alive when I saw him a week and a half ago!! How can this be? It’s soul crushing. I couldn’t listen to his music for a full day. But now it’s a day later and I’m remembering the concerts and the music. His first band Mudcrutch, his duet with Stevie Nicks, the Traveling Wilburys. There is so much to love.

The love will always be there after the sadness passes. Fair seas and following winds Tom. ‘You belong somewhere you feel free’.

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