As an introvert who is content with staying in and reading all day I sometimes struggle a little with making social plans. That band will come back again, I’ll go out to eat at the new restaurant another time and I’m sure that premiere will be in theaters another week, I think to myself. Unfortunately, last week showed us it doesn’t always work out that way.
Tom Petty’s sudden death shocked fans and performers of the entire music industry. He was just 66 and played at the Hollywood Bowl only seven days before.
Not to get too morbid and write about how you should treat people like you may not ever see them again, but seeing how he was only five years older than my parents, it’s hard not to think about how much time people have left.
I didn’t quite understand Petty’s combination of California redneck and 70s hippie style when I was younger. His songs came on the radio here and there and I thought they were all right, though back then “Free Fallin’” seemed kind of cheesy to me. It wasn’t until he became a DJ with his Buried Treasure show on XM’s Deep Tracks that I connected to him. I became more exposed to his oeuvre, genre-adjacent bands and artists that Petty liked and simply wanted people to know about.
Eventually Buried Treasure moved to Petty’s own titular station, which I listened to both on Monday when he was hospitalized and Tuesday after he passed. The other DJs hosted a vigil where they played his portfolio, provided insightful commentary and took calls from mega-fans and musicians to share stories. It was an extremely cathartic reflection on his legacy.
Petty’s last visit to Colorado was when he performed at Red Rocks in May. I remember getting the email about tickets going on sale and passing them up. It was a weekday and a roughly four hour drive but I could have seen him if I put in some effort. I thought there would be another opportunity and now I regret it.
As I write this I’m listening to a single from Robert Plant’s newest release. The 69-year-old rocker is still kicking with 11 solo studio albums. Though I’ll never witness Led Zeppelin live, a new Plant record means a new Plant tour and a chance to hear one of the most marvelous voices to ever be on vinyl. I’m now motivated to not let chance be wasted.
The most recent concert I saw was that one I wrote about last year when The National performed at Red Rocks. Aside from taking pictures at events for work I haven’t even seen anything locally. I’ve never been to Wildwood Sounds and I’ve yet to step foot in Society Hall since it opened. I need to step up my game.
We’ve lost Gregg Allman, Chris Cornell, Glen Campbell, Troy Gentry and Chuck Berry in addition to Petty so far this year. Last year David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Keith Emerson, Sharon Jones and more passed away. Some of these were more telegraphed due to age, cancer or other medical conditions while others were more unexpected. Nonetheless, all were tragic. My bucket list of bands to see shrinks each year and I’m not getting any younger either.
Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra and Bob Dylan are now the only two surviving members of the Traveling Wilburys supergroup. The pair still tour and the latter frequently graces the stage with Mavis Staples. That is a show I should stop waiting to see.
Even if you can’t make it to a headlining hall of famer because of ticket prices, location or some other reason, patronize who you can. Bar tours are where many of the famous folks started so pay homage to them with the up and comers. Farewell tours should probably be prioritized but it’s okay to go to concerts of those who still have a long career ahead of them. As long as it’s live and you’re making magical memories that can’t be replicated, you’re doing it right.
They say to never meet your heroes. It’s good advice, but it shouldn’t be interpreted as to never see them do what they do best. Don’t take their greatness for granted.