Tom Petty

Essays on the Life and Work

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About the Book

Rock and roll hall-of-famer Tom Petty had a musical career that spanned four decades with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and also notably included the co-founding of supergroup The Traveling Wilburys. As a songwriter and rock star, Petty was among the most successful of his time. His work appealed across socioeconomic boundaries to a diverse group of fans, and this collection of new essays explores this phenomenon. Other topics include Petty’s writing process, his political stances and the psychology behind his music.

About the Author(s)

Crystal Sands is a freelance writer and adjunct professor at Walden University. She has published a wide variety of academic and popular articles, as well as several reference books. She lives in Eddington, Maine.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Crystal D. Sands

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 202
Bibliographic Info: 9 photos, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7548-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3608-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Crystal D. Sands 1

No! in Thunder: American Wildflowers Reborn (Stephen Newton) 7
Place, Race and Mutability: Everyman’s Hillbilly Rhetoric (Mara Lee Grayson) 23
Tom Petty’s “Magic” of Success and the Craft of a Writer (Crystal D. Sands) 40
A Career in Review (Spencer Rowland) 53
Psychedelic Strangeness: “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and Other Magical Music Videos (Tom Zlabinger) 66
Running Down an American Dream: Tom Petty and the Tour ­T-Shirt (Lauren Alex ­O’Hagan) 79
Fashioning a Rock Star: Petty’s Clothing Choices and Their Connections (Megan Volpert) 99
Contributing to Success: Tom Petty, the Heartbreakers and Baby Boomer Behavior (Rebecca A. Caton) 114
Pretty Woman, American Girl: The Female in American Popular Music, 1960–2000 (Pamela P. ­O’Sullivan) 127
Rebels, Refugees and American Girls: A Study of Tom Petty’s Political Mojo (Alessandra Clayton Trindle) 137
Something Good: An Exploration of the Issue of Cover Bands (Karen Friend) 147
Fears, Frustrations and Knowing How It Feels: The Emotional Signifiers of Tom Petty’s Songs (Nate Bauer and Shye Gilad) 158
Peace and Petty: Music’s Healing Power (Shawn W. Murphy) 173

About the Contributors 191
Index 193

Author Interview

Review Fix chats with Tom Petty: Essays on the Life and Work editor Crystal Sands, who lets us know why the book is a special one and why Tom Petty’s legacy is a multifaceted one.

Review Fix: What inspired the creation of this book?

Crystal Sands: I was inspired to write about Tom Petty after his death. I was heartbroken when I heard the news, as I was one of those people who felt Tom Petty had written the soundtrack to my life. I had grown up with him, and his death was a devastating blow. My husband and I spent about five months listening to Tom Petty music only–and for many hours a day. It was a part of my healing process for sure, but I kept having the urge to do more, to write. Shortly after his death, I wrote this piece which appeared at Huffington Post, but I wanted to write more.

I am a writing professor, and I spend my life studying people’s writing processes. As I listened to Tom Petty’s music every day and got to know more of his deep tracks, I became fascinated with his writing process. How could someone be that successful, that effective? The essay I contributed to this book is on Petty’s writing process, and writing it was a part of my healing. I came to realize that others had the same need to heal through writing, only on different topics. And that’s kind of how this book was born–out of a need for healing.

Review Fix: What makes the music of Tom Petty worthy of a book like this in your opinion?

Sands: I think Tom Petty was such a successful songwriter that he simply deserves a place at the highest level in the American Canon. His work is as important as Dylan’s, I think, and Dylan’s work has received deep academic study and treatment. Some of the pieces in this collection provide a kind of deep academic study. Others provide a more biographical examination. But, in all, I feel like this collection should be the first of many that explore the power of Tom Petty’s life, work, and music.

Review Fix: What was the writing process like?

Sands: I enjoyed it so much, but it was tough as well. I had never edited a collection with such diversity in topics and authors, and trying to bring things together with some balance was a challenge. I also struggled tremendously writing my own essay on Tom Petty’s writing process. I wanted it to be beautiful, and, as a writer, that kind of pressure can be terrible. But I learned so much through all of it, and that’s really what you hope for–to have experiences that help you grow as a human. Digging into Tom Petty’s life and work to this kind of depth definitely helped me grow as a human.

Review Fix: How do you feel Tom Petty’s music will be looked at in a few decades?

Sands: I think it will last, that it will be a part of the Canon, and that it will continue to inspire, give hope, and comfort. I think Tom Petty’s deep understanding of humans and what makes us tick and what gives us hope will ensure that his music continues to be highly regarded.

Review Fix: Favorite Tom Petty song? Why?

Sands: This is so tough. I usually just have a top-five list because it’s so hard to pick. But I think it might be “Two Gunslingers.” I feel like the lyrics speak to inner turmoil people can have. It’s a beautiful song and speaks to me deeply. Tom Petty was a poet. That song is one piece of evidence. I had just finished the book when the An American Treasure collection was released. When my copy came in the mail and I tore into to find images of Tom Petty’s writing process for that song in the CD booklet, I just broke down and cried. It was a powerful moment for me.

Review Fix: What did you learn through the writing process that you weren’t expecting?

Sands: I definitely gained a deeper understanding of how Tom Petty’s work and his persona appealed to so many different people in so many different walks of life. The first time I read through everyone’s essays for the rough draft, I realized that Tom Petty was who we all needed him to be–and he somehow did this so well.

Review Fix: What are your goals for the book?

Sands: I hope that people will give it a chance and will find they learn something new about Tom Petty. I feel like there’s an essay in this collection for everyone. We cover everything from Tom Petty’s politics to Tom Petty tribute bands. I hope it’s fun for readers. Most importantly, I hope readers can see how much love and respect for Tom Petty went into this book.

Review Fix: How would you like it to be remembered?

Sands: I hope that this book is just one of the first of many critical explorations of Tom Petty’s life and works. He was such an important figure in our culture. I hope this just helps get the conversation started.

Review Fix: What’s next?

Sands: I’ve just been working on smaller projects since this book, but I just started working on a book-length project on the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, one of the longest-running community orchestras in the United States.