Tom Petty’s America

Tom Petty was special to me because he was the first musician I realized I liked after being told by teenage boys that I shouldn’t. I was nineteen or 20 and I saw a Damn the Torpedoes LP in a girlfriend’s apartment and thought “how could anything that looks this cool be bad?”

Tom Petty songs are good. They’re usually fun, occasionally beautiful, mostly just nice to listen to. Those teenage boys were dumb. I don’t know a lot about music but I don’t see how you can like rock and roll and think Tom Petty is “bad”. Maybe his songs aren’t your favorite, or you’ve heard them too many times on the radio, but they’re certainly not bad. His weakness, if anything, was being occasionally over-earnest. Like this blog post. But I’d rather listen to four hours of Tom Petty than two Iggy Pop songs in a row, and I think Iggy Pop is great. 

Sunday night, 59 people were murdered at a country music concert because America’s sick addiction to guns made them vulnerable to some old white asshole’s bloodlust. Whenever this happens, which is regularly, I’m overwhelmed with emotions, mostly grief and anger. I start to feel hopeless. On Monday, I thought about art and nihilism and how overrated and self-indulgent that stuff is. I don’t really like that Werner Herzog, banality-of-evil stuff. I think making art about how the world is joyless and meaningless is for bored, privileged people. But on Monday, I started to think maybe there was something to it. If I were to make a film about life in America, it would be a slasher movie where no one cares that there’s a killer on the loose, and the movie drags on and on and doesn’t end until everyone is finally dead.

At work, I wondered why no one mentioned that dozens of people were massacred in public while we were sleeping. No one brought it up, including me. I just worked all day with a sick feeling in my stomach. 

Then I heard Tom Petty was in critical condition and I felt overwhelming dread. Then I heard Tom Petty died and I burst into tears at my desk. 

Tom Petty songs are as American as driving a car with the windows down or whatever it is you think of when you think good thoughts about America. They’re fun and nice to listen to. Listen to Tom Petty. 

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