On Mourning: Las Vegas to Tom Petty

Photo by Sam Jones

It has been a dark day. I woke to the news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, just 130 miles from here. I mourn for those who lost loved ones and my sympathies extend to those who lived through it for the horrors they experienced. I don’t have the words. With events like this, it often takes me a day or two to process what happened and I’m not there yet.


My heart also aches for my friend Jani, who lost her mother last week. I never met her mother, but I know Jani and her kindness, so I feel an extra degree of empathy because of that connection.


That’s why I feel almost ashamed that I’m also mourning the loss of Tom Petty today. I should clarify that reports of his death have been questioned. Some say he remains on life support. But the prognosis does not look good.


I never met the man. I have no personal connection to him. And the fact that he’s a celebrity makes me feel guilty for mourning him when so many others were killed at the concert in Las Vegas.


But still, I’m saddened by his (imminent?) death. After all, he was a human being too and his life had just as much value as the next human being.


As a music lover, Petty’s songs have been part of the soundtrack of my life. He was one of the musicians who ushered me through my transition from country music to rock ‘n’ roll as a teenager. I purchased the cassette single for “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” when I was 15 and played it over and over until I finally bought a CD of Petty’s greatest hits, where I discovered even more gems.


His 1994 album “Wildflowers” became an early favorite of mine and is now the only album to rival The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” for Best Album of All Time honors in my musical book.


When I learned to play guitar, “Free Fallin’” was one of the first songs I learned to play.


Through the years, I’ve had the chance to review a number of Petty’s albums (solo, with the Heartbreakers and with Mudcrutch) for The Spectrum & Daily News. Most recently it was the second Mudcrutch album, “2,” which released last year. Click on this link for that review.


In 2006 I had the chance to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in concert in Las Vegas as part of the Vegoose Music Festival. I was there to cover the event for The Spectrum & Daily News, so I spent the first three songs in the photo pit, right next to the stage and at the foot of Tom Petty. I’m so thankful I had the chance to see the living legend perform live.


It was also around that time that I discovered what is now one of my favorite Tom Petty songs, “Southern Accent.” In honor of his life, I leave one of the verses from that song below:


“There’s a dream I keep having, where my mama comes to me / And kneels down over by the window, and says a prayer for me / Got my own way of praying, but every one’s begun / With a southern accent, where I come from.”

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