I am a nostalgist at the best of times, and at the worst the combination of music, moment and memory turn me into a weeping ninny.
A fair chunk of Tom Petty’s oeuvre does that to me, “Free Falling” more than most. My teen years were passed in the San Fernando Valley, and the song brings the worst of those years back in a painful rush. I never said so aloud, but Petty for me was like that cool older brother I never had, the guy who made me feel like everything was going to be okay because I shouldn’t take it too seriously, anyway.
In “Free Falling,” I heard Tom telling me that, yeah, I had hurt people, that it was wrong, that it didn’t make be a “bad boy” for breaking a heart, but that my true struggle was going to be learning to live with the hurt I had caused without daring to try and rationalize, minimalize, or forget it. That’s what the bad boys did, and that was anything but cool.
Was that what he wrote the song to try and provoke? I don’t know. That’s what the song meant to me. I can only hope that my expropriation of his music for my own emotional purposes wouldn’t have bothered Tom.
I think about meeting him on some other level of being and asking him about it. I hear him saying “no, man, if I can sing and you can heal, I’ve done my job. Mission accomplished.”
The Rebbe once said “music is the pen of the soul.” Mine will always carry an autograph of Tom Petty.
Keep playin’, big brother. Lots of healing to be done where you’re going.