APPRECIATION: Petty eloquently stood up for us

Storied rocker appeared in Israel in 1987 with Bob Dylan.

October 3, 2017 21:09
2 minute read.
Tom Petty

TOM PETTY performs at Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem in 1987.. (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST ARCHIVE)


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The death of Tom Petty seems to hurts more than the other huge losses to the music world in recent years, like Prince, David Bowie, Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen.

The latter were all, poets, prophets, larger than life artists who chose music as their medium.

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Petty didn’t have a choice. He was an everyman, another skinny teen loser who found liberation, adventure and self-worth in a chiming electric guitar, a wicked beat and loads of attitude.

Unlike the rest of us underdogs, Petty possessed the talent, charisma and craftsmanship to grab his dream and create his own universe of hooks, rhymes, choruses and solos that spoke to millions over a 40-year career that stands proudly next to any other musical giant of the late 20th century.

As Peter Himmelman, a singer- songwriter whose influences ranged from his father-in-law Bob Dylan to Petty himself, wrote in tribute: “Was there ever a better songwriter, a cooler rock star, a better role model for some kid from anywhere-in-the-world who saw him or herself learning to play guitar and gettin’ up onstage to say, ‘I’m alive on this planet and so are you’? I think not. Tom Petty was my favorite. Hands down.”

Petty redeemed the eternal promise of rock &roll to provide inspiration, elation and solace, of never forgetting the wonder and awe of youth (how else could he continue calling his band of AARP card-carriers ‘the Heartbreakers’) and of looking at life with a twinkle in the eye and a slight smirk on the lips.

From the first time seeing him electrify an audience in a tiny club in Boston in 1977 on the heels of his band’s stunning debut album, it was clear that he was already a fully-formed star, but without any of the affectations. Five years later, he was the same aw-shucks guy performing at a sold-out Boston Garden.

The last time I saw Petty was five years later in Jerusalem’s Sultan’s Pool, as he and the Heartbreakers made good on their promise yet again with their own riveting set, sandwiched between legends and influences Roger McGuinn and Dylan, provided the latter with his most sympathetic and assured backing since The Band.

The younger spunky brother in The Travelling Wilburys with Dylan, George Harrison and Roy Orbison; the cheerleading, vice principal to Springsteen in the ‘ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive’ school of thought; or the grizzled veteran taking a victory lap on his recently completed 40th anniversary tour – whatever stage of life or performance, Petty raised everyone around him with his integrity, honesty and cheeriness, armed with a slew of memorable songs of substance that will long outlive him.

He proved time and time again that, yes, even the losers get lucky sometimes.

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