Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tom Petty- An Education in Rock and Roll

Soundtrack for this post

I'll be honest, tonight I don't want to deconstruct Tom Petty's music. I probably could, but you could probably read more professional rock writers do it better with a simple Google search. I want to celebrate his music. I want to tie it to education, but in the most fun ways possible. Mostly I want to enjoy the songs he gave us.

I want to talk about that guitar part that opens American Girl. And the brilliantly simple drumming in Listen to Her Heart. And how it's physically impossible to not shout "BAY-BEE" in Breakdown.

I want to talk about how Tom Cruise is forever linked to Free Fallin' but I'm ok with that because it's one of the best needle drops in any movie. I want to remember what a weird ass video Runnin' Down a Dream is.

I think Mary Jane's Last Dance is my favorite Tom Petty song, but I don't know why. I think it might be the first song that I realized was his. I think it might be because I discovered the song around the same time I found out that marijuana was sometimes called Mary Jane and then it felt somehow mischievous to sing along with it because omg he's singing about *pot*. (I don't think that's what the sing is actually about now, but it might be.)

And then I realize he also wrote Refugee (with that amazing vocal delivery in the opening verse), Even the Losers, Here Comes My Girl, Don't Do Me Like That, and I Won't Back Down and I just get angry I never got to see him live and have those, "Holy crap, that's right, he wrote this too," moments over and over.

He even got the nod from "Weird" Al, who parodied Stop Draggin' My Heart Around with Stop Draggin' My Car Around.

In writing this I realize that Tom Petty hated the suffix "-ing". Draggin'. Fallin'. Runnin'. Jammin'. It's kind of amazing the song isn't called Waitin' For Tonight.

I don't have a deeper educational point in this post. I don't know if I have any educational point at all. Maybe that we should appreciate the beauty in the simple, and the amount of work it takes to sound so effortless. Maybe it's that what we really need to be inspired is right there in the world around us, and it's up to us to take that world and reflect it back to make it brighter somehow.

Tom Petty will be missed, but his music will live forever.

If you like this post and the other posts on this blog you should know I’ve written three books about teaching- He’s the Weird TeacherTHE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), and the just released A Classroom Of One. I’ve also written one novel- The Unforgiving Road. You should check them out, I’m even better in long form. I’m also on the tweets @TheWeirdTeacher


  1. There is a great biography on him on Netflix. TP just wanted to rock n' roll.

  2. I've seen most of that doc (it's real long), and I agree. It's fantastic.

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