We all spend our formative years in different ways, and sometimes it’s useful to remind ourselves of the little experiences that can immensely influence the way we look at our world. It’s that beautiful ‘additional’ college education that comes simply from being in an environment that can alter your future trajectory in unpredictable and unimaginable ways.
On a crisp, New England autumn day in 2002, my dorm mate and ear-training study buddy Lenny (now an amazing session guitarist and music producer in Vancouver) – purchased a copy of Tom Petty’s new album “The Last DJ” – and brought it to my dorm room to listen.
“Guys, you HAVE to hear this!” – Lenny said to several of us in the room as the song “Joe” started playing. This tune, amongst others on the album, didn’t pull any punches in its thoughts towards the music business. There was no complexity – it was as direct as lyricism can get. It was brutal.
Everybody in the room was completely floored. None of us expected something this raw, especially from a respected artist who at that point has spent three decades in the industry. Shortly after, we ran across this article in Rolling Stone and I was hooked:
10 Things that Piss Off Tom Petty (Language warning)
Now, if you don’t remember your early college self, we tended to be an impressionable lot – and I was certainly in a mental place where I was not only exploring different viewpoints on life but also investigating how people put those viewpoints to practice.
In the fall of 2002, at the age of 19, I had found one of my kindred spirits in Tom Petty.
Petty was a person who understood the moral weight of his work and his position in the industry – and he was unafraid to take a stand when his moral concepts were compromised. Whether he was funding his own recordings and declaring bankruptcy to exit a bad record deal, or threatening to withhold an upcoming album to fight a price hike – Petty was keenly aware of the bigger picture – and how his action, or inaction, would alter the status quo for future generations.
He never backed down (no pun intended) from expressing his opinion when he felt that it could lead to positive change. By listening to his music, reading his interviews and observing his career, I hope we can all learn how to use our position of strength to fight battles that make things better for those that come after us.
I will always remember Tom Petty as an artist of integrity.
I hope that our students, now and in the future, learn from his example and become artists of integrity themselves. May he rest in peace.
Yuri is the Recording Arts Chair here at Tribeca Flashpoint College. He has been in the Chicago music industry for 11 years having worked live events, studio projects and everything in between. You can follow Yuri on Instagram (@yurimusic) and Twitter (@yurichicago). You have a question regarding anything music, recording arts or just need a friend, hit him up!