BY JOHN PATRICK
I was a sophomore in high school when I first heard the song “Refugee” from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. It was unlike any song I’ve heard before. I have been a fan ever since. That was 38 years ago.
In that time, I have purchased at least three copies of the “Damn the Torpedoes” album. My first copy was on 8-track. When the tape inside broke, I performed minor surgical repairs to make it work again. Then came another copy on cassette, and finally the CD version.
“Refugee” remains one of my all-time favorite songs. The one thing that changed over the years is that Petty became my favorite artist. As I got older, I still loved rocking out to Led Zeppelin or AC/DC, but as his catalog of music grew to 20 albums, Petty took over more and more.
If you listen to Petty it’s not hard to hear the passion in his songs. There are so many different qualities I find in his music. There is a certain amount of angst and desperation in many of them. The best example might be “Even the Losers” with the lyrics:
Two cars parked on the overpass
Rocks hit the water like broken glass
I should’ve known right then it was too good to last
God it’s such a drag when you live in the past
Even the losers get lucky sometimes
Even when I would hear a new song, after a few listens it was like I’ve been listening to it for years. No one dropped in an “oh, oh, oh” … or a “yah, yah, yah” into a song more perfectly than Petty. The combination of Petty’s voice and lyrics, Mike Campbell’s guitar and organ from Benmont Tench made Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers America’s greatest rock band.
His rock and roll story is fascinating. From taking on the greedy record companies multiple times, to backing up Bob Dylan. From a Gainesville, Florida, boy to becoming a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was brilliantly told in the documentary “Runnin’ Down A Dream.”
I was fortunate to see him in concert four times. I remember the first one at the Gorge Amphitheatre with my wife, some 15 years after hearing “Refugee.” He played a couple songs I had never heard that stuck with me. You could cut the pot smoke with a knife. The last time was at Taco Bell Arena a few years ago with my oldest son. His music and I had come full circle. I had passed it on to another generation.
Petty died Monday, but his music lives on. It’s like an old friend; always there, and something I can count on!
John “JP’’ Patrick produces Idaho Sports Talk with Caves & Prater weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on KTIK 93.1 FM The Ticket. He can be found @JPKTIK (Twitter).