This is my healing journal.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"I Won't Back Down"

As we pulled into the parking lot of the offfice where I work, my friend Carrie and I were listneing to Tom Petty's Greatest Hits. "American Girl" was playing at a moderately quiet pitch for us. We usually have her CD player a bit louder than we had it. However, we were talking and it took a lot for me to concentrate, as I was not feeling well.

I was reminded as I listened to him of just how much I loved Tom Petty's music. I remember the first time I really listened to his music. My Mom and I were riding in her car that she had bought which she had left for my brother and sister to drive when we moved to Massachusetts. We were on the way to my eye appointment. (I have artificial eyes, and we were in the process of trying to get them to set up appointments, so I could get new ones.) I was a junior in high school, visitting Oekmos on Spring Break, sick with the flu.

We had dropped my brother Nels's friend off at his house and were headed from the appointment to my Aunt's house, when Mom turned on the tape to try and comfort me. It worked. I don't even remember the songs. I just remember liking what I heard.

I remember falling in love though with "The Waiting" a year later. Though the subject matter of the song was not about waiting to hear from a school as to whether I had gotten accepted or not, it comforted me, as I was waiting to hear if I had been accepted at Interlochen Arts Academy for my senior year. (Mom had held me back a year, so I could prepare for that.)

Fast forward about eight years. I was a masters level social worker intern at a substance abuse clinic. The kids I worked with loved a lot of music that I could not stomach. But, they all loved Tom Petty's music, in particular "Running Down a Dream" and "I Won't Back Down". I had learned to play the latter, and often that song would be requested, along with another one that was popular at the time by another artist called "Love Song" which one of the kids gave me the tape to learn that song from. In particular, "I WOn't Back Down" was requested a lot by the girls in the program.

I was thinking about those kids, as I listened to Tom Petty do the half time show at the Super Bowl, and was reminded of one in particular, as I listned to how Tom sang "i Won't Back Down" these days. The angry edge was gone from the time he had recorded it. Instead, I heard the voice of a very humble man.

The kid I was thinking of had his stepmother confescate all his tapes and I had to sit down and listen to them with him, to help him distinguish what was positive music and what wasn't. I personally loved this kid. I could see a lot of potential in him, that I could not always see in the boys in particular. And listening to music for or with him was not a problem. I had to do that with other kids there as well, especially since I was teaching the music appreciation unit for the program. Anyway, I sat with him for two hours, listening to every tape in bits and pieces and actually letting him make the decision about the tapes. His stepmother actually was sort of pissed at me for doing it that way, because she felt he would not be able to make such a decision.

Fast forward about eleven years. I had since married and moved to Jackson. We were driving through Kalamazoo on our way to South Haven to sing at a church. We had pulled into a gas station off of M43, close to the Western boundary of Kalamazoo. Bert had gone in to get something to drink for us both, and a truck pulled alongside of us. We had the windows rolled down, because our air conditioning hasn't worked in our car for God knows how long.

The driver of the car walked up and asked how I was doing. I told him okay, and then he asked if I remembered him. Of course I did! How could I forget Tony? He then thanked me for listening to him and for helping him with the music he had been listening to.

To think I had believed in him enough to actually not back down but show him that kindness and love could help him become a better person. "No, I won't back down" from being who I am. Thanks Tom Petty for your music, and Tony for your kid words.


  • At February 21, 2008 at 6:25 PM , Blogger Suzanne R said...

    My heart is warmed by this entry! How remarkable that you got to see Tony again, and learn how right you had been in your handling of him and his music those years before. As I've mentioned to you previously, I'm not familiar with Tom Petty's music, being of an older generation, but it must be special, because I respect your judgment, and I don't believe you would appreciate music that wasn't.

  • At February 21, 2008 at 9:02 PM , Blogger Healing Song said...

    Thanks for your words, Suzanne. And thank you for the respect you so honor me with regarding music. THat really means a lot.


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