Another Death In The Rock and Roll Family

When I saw Tom Petty perform in July it never occurred to me I was witnessing one of his last shows. The news of his death of cardiac failure earlier this week was a shock.

I know there is a generation of performers who are aging and not likely to be with us much longer. I have a friend who traveled to New York City a week ago to see Jerry Lee Lewis, an 82-year-old rock pioneer. That was one for his bucket list.

About a decade ago I debated about making the trek myself to see Les Paul perform in New York, deciding eventually that, while it would be wonderful to see the man who pioneered the electric guitar, I wasn’t a big enough fan to spend the money. He died shortly after that, aged 94, and I still have a few regrets.  

Tom Petty put on a fan-pleasing show in Ottawa three months ago. No-one expected him to die at 66. As a tribute I’m repeating my review of the show below.

It is (hopefully) a sobering thought when someone dies young. We know intellectually that we are all going to die sometime (unless the Rapture takes place first) but we don’t know when and we all expect that date to be far in the future. As a result we tend not to make plans for our demise, beyond making a will and taking out life insurance. Those are great as far as earthly matters, but what about the spiritual?

I have no idea what Tom Petty’s spiritual state was. I never met the man, so never had the opportunity to ask. I do hope he was prepared to meet God face to face, but my guess is that he wasn’t. He probably thought he had a long time before he had to worry about end of life issues. Turns out he was wrong.

What about you?


Still Rocking After All These Years  (Original post July 20, 2017)

Scratch one from the bucket list. Not that I actually have a bucket list.

I missed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers the last time they were in Ottawa, 36 year ago. I don’t know why it took so long for them to return when the 2017 RBC‎ Ottawa Bluesfest schedule was announced, with Petty as the closing act, I knew that was one I could not miss.

tompetty crowd 2017_credit_Steve Gerecke

The crowd watching Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performing at RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Sunday, July 16, 2017.  ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Steve Gerecke.

He’s been around for more than 40 years, and I liked his music from the beginning, but I still have difficulty articulating just what it is that draws me to the band. I can’t figure out if it is the guitar sound, Petty’s voice or the songwriting. All I know is that the music strikes a chord in my soul. He’s a storyteller, though admittedly sometimes the stories the songs tell don’t always make sense if you pay attention to lyrics.

With thunderstorms in the forecast I still headed out in plenty of time to catch the set. I figured that while the weather might dampen my enthusiasm, it wouldn’t squelch it completely. I’ve been to shows in the driving rain before; if you like the music you can put up with anything. And indeed, it rained pretty much throughout the show, albeit a gentle rain that wasn’t enough to really get wet.

Tom Petty

Tom Petty performs at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Sunday, July 16, 2017. The RBC Bluesfest is ranked by Billboard as one of the most successful music events in North America. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Mark Horton

I don’t know that I can give you an objective review of the show. With more than 40 years of records to draw on, it was a foregone conclusion that some favourites would have to be omitted. With the set scheduled for two hours, there wasn’t enough time to play all the hits, let alone any more obscure tracks that might be favourites.

The crowd was pumped, the band tight and the evening flowed, why don’t we leave it at that. Having waited so long to see Tom Petty it would have had to be a really bad show to be less than enjoyable. It was basically what I expected, no more and no less.

The concert got me thinking though about the nature of music and why we are drawn to certain types/genres and certain artists. My wife informed me decades ago that she dislikes country music. However, when I have exposed her to certain country artists she has enjoyed the shows. Is that the difference between live and studio recordings? Something to do with the company at the show? Or a sign her tastes changed with age?

Tom Petty

Tom Petty performs at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on Sunday, July 16, 2017. The RBC Bluesfest is ranked by Billboard as one of the most successful music events in North America. ~ RBC Bluesfest Press Images PHOTO/Mark Horton

There are groups you would have to pay me to go see. I would never buy their records. Some of these artists sell millions of copies of their recordings and sell out stadiums. What do others see in them that I can’t?

From an economic perspective I guess it is a good thing that we have such divergent taste. What if we all liked the same thing and nothing else? Imagine a world where there was only one musical performer, beloved by all perhaps but still only one. I think that would be boring.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers rocked Bluesfest last Sunday night. They might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I thoroughly enjoyed them.


One comment

  1. CA Jenkins · · Reply

    I’m very sorry I didn’t go that night; the cost and the weather were factors.
    “Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads, running down a dream!”
    I sang his songs all day yesterday. The NFL halftime show in 2008 was a classic medley!

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