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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Day the Music Died: Jason Aldean, Tom Petty, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper.

            The day the music died, Waylon Jennings chose not to get on a plane that Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens boarded and flew to their death while Jennings’ casual remark about hoping the plane crashed haunted him for years. For most of us, Don McLean wrote the story of how the loss of 3 early rock stars caused so much pain and took meaning back from the tragedy.

Yesterday, we lost Tom Petty, who was one of the voices of my life (whether with the Heartbreakers, the Traveling Wilburies, Cameron Crowe, or by himself - the testament of those touched by him speaks for itself). I’ll miss him, but I’ll always have his music. Death cannot take that away from me. To me, as to most people, Petty’s best albums were Full Moon Fever and Wildflowers, but I will add here that Highway Companion was an often-unheard gem. For most people, a greatest hits package is enough, and that’s fair. Chances are that you know them all already. In the same way that you knew Prince and David Bowie, you know Petty. Some of his songs were inescapable (Credence Clearwater Revival is as lot like that, too). I would go so far as to say if you were to make an 80-minute CD for a non-American about what our country is at its best, “Free Fallin’” would be on there with songs like “Piano Man” by Billy Joel. They’re great songs and they’re among our favorites. They’ve survived decades, and we know all the words.
That’s why Joel still plays tons of shows and how Petty played the Super Bowl with a set from 1989 nearly 20 years later.
However, when I think of Petty, I think of “I Won’t Back Down” being played for 9.11. This song was about healing, and his version is incredible. What’s more, when Bush tried to take it for the drums of war, Petty took it back at a time when everyone wanted to not back down and go all Toby Keith. That wasn’t what Petty was about, so Bush obliged.

            In a similar fashion, yesterday was a day that we needed some Tom Petty and / or the Traveling Wilburies. The history of the Wilburies expresses the happiness that they (Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne of ELO - a very underappreciated band, George Harrison of the Beatles, Roy Orbison, and Petty) offered to the world. Both of their CDs were 1996 to me, which was the year they played off the hook. I’ve played Petty a fair bit since 1996 as well, seeing him in 1999.
             It seems like yesterday, the music died again.
Coming to work, I drove to my job and heard of the horrific events in Vegas. I won’t elaborate on them (you've already heard about it), but I will pay respect to the 59 dead and 527 wounded people. On a day when 22,000 people went to celebrate Jason Aldean and various other mainstream country artists, a 64-year old man bent on destruction turned the festival into a killing ground. He had no motive other than hate, evil, and a murderous desire to use 23 weapons, which he secreted up to his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay to do just that.

            This isn’t about him (some people don't want to be good, so they just suck). He won’t be missed, but his status of murder and evil will live on, even as we still try to figure out why he did it.
            This is instead about the music. I don’t know Aldean, but many people do, and they really like him. I'm glad for that. We all need people who can sing our lives happily. I hope that today, his fans can play his music and still feel its passion and ability to make people happy. That’s what it’s all about. If they can’t play his stuff, I hope they find someone else who can light up a room and remove sadness while finding their way back to him. To lose music and its joy, healing, expression, and understanding would be a crime against all that people are.
            In the face of losing 59 people and seeing 527 wounded, forgetting the lives of those who died would be equally tragic (some of their pictures here).  Others are here. While Tom Petty’s life transcends each of ours, we must remember that those who died were also people who were rock stars in their own way. They felt and did things. They were imperfect, but they were awesome. Does that make sense? I know it's how I envision my life and the lives of those around me, too. Some people smile because they knew these people and experienced their actions, but many people never knew them. However, if we think about it, we may only be a few connections away from them. For instance, yesterday, I realized that I had a Facebook friend who knew someone who knew a victim. While 3 connections isn’t enough for a biographical tribute or to cry (though I did cry for Mr. Petty), it is something to say that we’re a community, and we're not all that different or removed from one another.

            Act like it.
            Choose to live life.
            Practice random kindness.
            Be safe out there.
            Always tell people that they mean good things to you.
            The other thing written yesterday was by the Josh Abbott Band’s Caleb Keeter. As someone who grew up with guns and who seriously wonders what we could have done to stop the lunacy yesterday, The feelings of personal change that Keeter expresses in this statement move me (and I’m sure others) to a hope that we can fix a broken system (though I have no idea how - read the article if you feel compelled / otherwise, see this a REAL DEAL TRIGGER WARNING). I don’t write this to sway people for or against gun control (that's your business and journey), but rather to see a person in the midst of a tragedy changing his whole mindset because the events of life are heavier than a political ideology. 

All I say is that you don’t know what you’d do until you get there. If you haven’t had a maniac on the 32nd floor shoot at you, how can you say how you’d feel? I know I haven’t.

            The same is true for Parkinson’s. It changed my beliefs and me. That’s life (the words in red apply here, though you can change the second sentence appropriately). All of those people who are hitting hard with politics to the right and left, while not speaking out for the victims and their memories or attempting to heal life, you’re definitely missing something. Get over yourselves.
            Choose to live life.
            Hug your loved ones.
            Tell people you care about them.
            Practice random kindness.

            And let the music heal you. It’s what Tom would have wanted. He may not be here to tell you, but you can find his stuff on Youtube (like this concert)..
             I think we can all agree on that. 

PS - to the emergency crews and first responders, you are first class all the way. I remember watching how you helped my wife escape Ice Box Canyon in 2015. I'm glad you can keep expanding your commitment and skill. 

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