Music is such an integral part of life. It always has been for me. As a baby, my mom would play classical music when I slept. My grandmother always had music on. Literally all day. I can’t remember a time when visiting and the radio or stereo wasn’t on. In my teenage years listening to my dad play Neal Young and Robert Palmer. One of my favorite early music memories was a cassette tape, yes, a cassette tape, of my dad’s that had Robert Palmer on one side and on the other, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Looking back now, I realize that it was this music that shaped much of not only my musical tastes which I enjoy today, but also my personality.
I recently watched a documentary about Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, called Runnin’ Down a Dream. The documentary chronicles the band from its inception over thirty years ago through to just a few years past. There were several aspects of the story of the band which struck me. One being the amazing impact that Tom Petty had on the music industry. From the beginning, Petty paved the way for future musicians with the legal battles he fought in order to prevent record companies from stealing the rights to publish his music. Tom Petty worked with many giants in the music world as well and served as inspiration for most of them. Stevie Nicks, of Fleetwood Mac, was one who looked up to Petty and actually wanted to be in his band. Petty wrote and played with the likes of Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr of The Beatles who even played drums for him for a while. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers also toured and were the “backup” band for Bob Dylan.
Tom Petty’s drive to express himself through music has continued in the decades of music he’s created. His ability to tell stories through music are among the great writers of all musical types. I think one of my favorite aspects of the Heartbreakers’ songs is the energy and spirit in which they’re sung and played. In every one of the songs, you can feel the power and drive of Petty to put everything he and the band had into each note and word. This want to show that they’ve left nothing behind with each performance is something that led me to other artists with the same passion like Dave Matthews and Rob Thomas. Matthews and Thomas put an energy into their songs just as Tom Petty did and does.
The energy of performance through true talent is something that seems to be few and far between in contemporary artists. Honestly, it’s sad that the public even pays anything to listen to the likes of Nickie Minaj or Justin Beiber. These two people prove that the record industry will throw as much money as necessary at just about anyone, even if they don’t have any talent. It is comforting to know, however, that true musicians and performers can still shine through the over the top and shameful sideshows. Besides artists like Matthews and Thomas, the likes of Adele, Sara Bareilles, KT Tunstall, Florence + the Machine, show that skill and passion for musical expression are so much more than scantily clad outfits, cursing every other word, or recycled beats and mixes.
Songs of the truly talented performers, like Tom Petty, reflect social change and describe what many people really feel about things going on in the world. Tom Petty’s lyrics are so much more than “baby baby baby” or wild parties, drinking, and drugs. The words tell a story. They give you a new perspective with the artist’s view. They give you something worthwhile to consider.
The Heartbreakers‘ documentary struck a chord with me and gave me an even greater appreciation for the art that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers created. Knowing their whole story makes everything along the way have so much more weight and meaning. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ story is an example that hard work, passion, energy and true talent are what allow you to really go Runnin’ Down a Dream.