Did you feel the loss during 2016 and well into 2017 when we watched so many artists and musicians leave the world? Were they your friends? The epic storytellers, trendsetters, and style makers who taught us all how to be a little cooler and a lot more open-minded: Prince, David Bowie, Chris Cornell, Chuck Berry, Sam Shepard, Harry Dean Stanton, and Adam West – they topped the much-too-long list of goodbyes. Myself, I felt sort of numb about it all. Each time, I watched my news feed light up with tributes. I listened to friends reminisce about defining moments that made this musician or artist one of their favorites. I had empathy. But I couldn’t relate to the sensation that I lost someone personal to me. I never felt like I’d lost a friend…except this time.
This time, it was you that died.
As I write this, it’s been 123 days since you died.
I can’t get my thoughts clear about it.
I haven’t cried. I haven’t faced it directly.
I’ve listened to your songs every day since I can remember listening to songs. I can’t tell you when you showed up in my life because you’ve always been there. Your music preceded my birth, and you helped me grow up. You’ve always been there for me: a consistent and supportive guide. There’s an empty space now.
I won’t regale you with tales of specific moments that one of your songs, or concerts, helped me out – I just want you to know that they, you, your music, changed me for the better.
It’s hard to explain how a person you’ve never actually met can be a friend and confidante. I see how ridiculous that sounds as I write it. But the person that the world knew as the rock star Tom Petty…that part of you that you shared with so many…well, that guy, I think, was a solid foundation for many people. Your capacity for creating universal and life-affirming lyrics, and your expert delivery of good old rock and roll songs aided in the positive transformation of many. This is the magic of music and you, Mr. Tom, were a profound channel.
It’s hard to explain how I feel now.
Two days ago, a friend shared a video with me: of one of my favorite bands covering your “Wreck Me.” It was a perfect tribute. I felt elation that someone thought to tape the moment, the pure love I have for both the band playing it and your original song, and the sadness that this is as close as I’ll ever be again to your original spark. That even though we’ll always have the 40+ years of music you left us, it doesn’t sound the same now. Because without you here, our continuum has changed.
Can I sing you to sleep?
“Good night, baby
sleep tight my love
may God watch over you from above
Tomorrow I’m working
what will I do
I’d be lost and lonely if not for you
So, close your eyes
We’re alright for now”