Southern Accents – Tom Petty

Tom Petty - Charcoal
Southern Accents – Charcoal Portrait of Tom Petty

Tom Petty is the most influential musician and lyricist of my life. I was eight or nine when I really became aware of his music (late 90’s). My love of his music became borderline obsessive. I woke up to the greatest hits album every day for three years. To this day I feel like I’m waking up when I hear the opening notes to American girl. While my peers gushed about boy bands like The Backstreet boys and N’sync. I was following Tom Petty’s nasally voice down the rabbit hole of Rock Music. My love of his music led to my introduction to The Traveling Wilburys. Which in turn caused me to develop a great love of Bob Dylan.

My love of Tom Petty was something that helped me find common ground with my new step dad. I cant tell you how many times we watched Concert For George DVD together in which Tom Petty played. When I was 12 my mom took me to a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concert for their Last DJ tour. Later, When Ipod’s came out songs like “Running down a Dream” and his cover of “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” were staples on my running playlist while I ran miles for cross country practice. When I was 19 and working at a fruit stand I listened to his Wildflowers album approximately 500 times because it was one of two CDs the owner had in a building that didn’t get radio reception. I would listen to his music as painted. When I rocked my babies to sleep at night I would often sing to them:

Goodnight baby, sleep tight my love

May God watch over you from above

Tomorrow I’m workin’ what would I do

I’d be lost and lonely if not for you

So close your eyes

We’re alright for now

I’ve spent my life travelin’

Spent my life free

I could not repay all you’ve done for me

So sleep tight baby

Unfurrow your brow

And know I love you

We’re alright for now

We’re alright for now

-Tom Petty, Alright For Now

In short he has been the soundtrack to my life.

When I found about his passing I went down to my studio to watch his biography, shed some tears, and put my feelings on paper. When I was done I entitled the portrait “Southern Accents” after one of my favorite songs he wrote.

Tom, Thank you for 40 years of music and poetry.

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