By Thomas Johnson, October 5 2017 —
Tom Petty may have been the most casual of America’s rock icons. His career was mellow in comparison to his contemporaries. Next to Dylan’s generational tides and Springsteen’s Americana heroism, Petty’s suburban narratives seemed almost quaint. While the former two dealt in highways and badlands, Petty concerned himself with the neighbourhoods in between. He never felt like he had to be the Bard or the Boss. He was the golden-haired and soft-spoken boy next-door, quick to offer a smoke and a lukewarm beer.
The magic of Petty’s writing was his powerful expression of the beauty of leisure. His songs were for the everyday everyman. Toms, Dicks, and Mary Janes, rebels without a clue and American girls who love Jesus. He sermonized crushing devastation then disguised it as three-minute radio hits. He could transform a ride down Ventura Blvd. into an existential awakening and a dance into a philosophy.
On Oct. 2, Petty passed away at 66. If you haven’t already, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with his catalogue. You may find echoes of your own life in the one he captured.