Like many precocious kids who mirrored their parents’ music taste, I grew up loving classic rock. While I mainly liked whatever my dad listened to, I developed a deep and personal love for Tom Petty in particular. I remember listening to “American Girl” for the first time and immediately being sucked in by the shiny chords and happy rhythm. The lyrical content resonated with me, a ten-year-old American girl (incidentally, I loved singing it to my American Girl dolls.) The song is Technicolor. There’s something so special about a piece of music that makes you transition from foot-tapping to feeling an all-encompassing urge to dance and bop around. It’s magic!
I adored listening to Petty’s Sirius XM radio show Buried Treasure as a kid. One time, he mentioned his show email on air, saying he reads every message sent to him. This electrified me. I remember running to the family computer and feverishly writing an email to him (all without the knowledge or consent of my parents.) I introduced myself as his youngest fan and mentioned how I thought “American Girl” was the best song ever written. I explained that he should create a new album solely because I wanted more songs.
A few months later, I read a headline that Tom Petty was releasing a new album. Being an idealistic kid, I immediately concluded this was all caused by my email. I have no idea if this is the actual case but it was very affirming to my ten-year-old self. It sparked this wonderful feeling that I could connect and communicate with artists on a personal basis. I still feed off this idea now when I interview bands or book artists for a show.
When I found out Tom Petty died, I was live on the air during my own radio show. While I was scrambling to process my grief and stay composed for my listeners, I couldn’t help but feel like everything came full circle. I knew deep down that he was part of the reason why I stepped in the radio studio in the first place.
Thanks for everything, Tom. I may not be your youngest fan anymore but I will continue to feed off the boundless amounts of inspiration you have provided me.