Remembering Tom Petty

Tom Petty’s songs made special moments better & ordinary moments feel significant.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers 1977
I first heard Tom Petty’s music when I was fifteen & just getting into classic rock. His songs would come on my classic rock & Beatles-themed Pandora radio stations. I realized that Tom Petty’s Learning to Fly was different than Pink Floyd’s. The Traveling Wilburys bridged my love of the Beatles with my newfound love of Bob Dylan. As my musical interests continued to change, his songs kept finding their way into my Pandora stations. In that way, I became familiar with some of them.
My father & I walked into Guitar Center. Mary Jane’s Last Dance was playing distinctly over their speakers as a guy crouched down cradling a black guitar tuned it. The combination of the two sounds mingled with the sounds of what everyone else in the store was playing. The memory, the aesthetic, of the way it sounded is what I always think about when I hear that song now.
The first time I heard American Girl, I was leaving my neighborhood. The song was playing quiet over the car stereo. My dad was trying to make a phone call so I strained my ears to hear the lyrics. I immediately fell in love with it. There was something about the jangling guitars & the continuous pedal tones & the slightly bittersweet optimism that made me love it. When I got home, I looked up the lyrics & saw it was a Tom Petty song. Months later, I stayed in the car longer in the parking lot at the dollar store just so I could hear it.
A year ago, everything in my life felt stressful. I was overwhelmed. But I always sang along to I Won’t Back Down. Listening to it made me feel better. It became my anthem. I wanted to give up, I wanted to give in, but then I was always reminded of this declaration of strength. & I knew I was going to keep fighting for what was right for me & the kind of life I wanted to live until I got there. No matter what.
My sister & I drove on through the cold dark December night. We were going to watch the play Proof at the theater. The classic rock station was playing. A Tom Petty song came on. My sister turned up the volume. “I love his music.” She declared. I was surprised learning this, because I loved his music & yet I never knew she did. We talked about this. I told her there was a Tom Petty concert happening in a few months, if we saved money maybe we could go to it. We made plans to do this, but by the time we had the money, all the cheaper tickets were sold out.
I was driving across the Overseas Highway on the forth day of my road trip. I’d driven from Key Largo to Key West & now I was driving more than two hours back to Key Largo in the same day. It was late afternoon, the space between the beginning of sunset & the beginning of twilight. I came upon the Tom Petty section of my playlist. All my favorite songs of his. The likes of Free Fallin’American Girl, Mary Jane’s Last Dance, Breakdown, Refugee, & I Won’t Back Down were my soundtrack. His music sounded like a road trip, like the open road. The songs felt special, hearing them halfway through the road trip, in the purity of freedom, on a very long highway when the sun was setting over the ocean.
I heard it on the radio when I was sitting at a stoplight. A few Tom Petty songs had played consecutively; I wasn’t sure why. “Remembering Tom Petty.” The announcer said. It felt like a slap to the face. The second of the day; the first was hearing about what happened in Las Vegas. They said he’d passed away earlier. More songs played, but now they all sounded bittersweet. I wanted to hear them & turn them off at the same time. He couldn’t be dead. He couldn’t. I thought about Mary Jane’s Last Dance in Guitar Center & American Girl in the parking lot & I Won’t Back Down on my stereo & Overseas highway. I thought about how my sister & I never did get to go to that concert. That we’d missed our chance. It hurt like when David Bowie died. I couldn’t believe it.
A few hours later on the way home, Don’t Do Me Like That finished playing. The announcer said, “Despite earlier reports that Tom Petty had passed away, apparently he isn’t actually dead. He’s in critical condition, but he’s alive.” I grinned & slapped my steering wheel. “YOU BASTARDS! You bastards! He’s alive! He’s alive!” I laughed. I came home. “Did you hear Tom Petty died earlier?” My sister asked. “Yes, but he’s not actually dead! Not yet!” I explained. No one online was sure now whether or not he was dead. Please be alive. Please, please pull through, I prayed. When I woke up the next day, I learned he really was gone.
How many people have been inspired to pick up a guitar because of him? How many of us have listened to I Won’t Back Down & decided, once more, to keep moving forward? How many moment of specific, perfect aesthetic moments have his songs soundtracked? Those are the things he has left behind for us. Those are the things we can keep close. Music, & the memories surrounding it, are something that cannot be lost. & what an amazing catalog of music he has left behind. But what’s perhaps an equally important legacy to me as his music is the reminder that even in a world that would rather we be what it wants us to be, we can still be ourselves if we choose to.

Playlist // 10 Most Underrated Queen Songs

Top 10 Most Underrated Queen Songs by Ashlee Craft // Playlists

Listen to playlist on YouTube

I discovered Queen’s music when I was 17. I saw the song Bohemian Rhapsody on a list of best classic rock songs & I’d remembered hearing it years prior, so I decided to give it a listen (I listened to the live version at Wembley, then the album version). I fell in love with Queen right then & there. Then I listened to Somebody To Love, & watched the music video, & heard all their soaring harmonies, & I was hooked. I began listening to as much Queen music as possible. I’ve probably heard all their albums in their entireties at least a few times each, & listened to some individual songs about a million times. I’m not quite as obsessed with Queen as I used to be, but they are definitely still one of my very favorite bands.

One thing I noticed was that there are lots of Queen songs that are very much a part of popular culture, songs that people hear on the radio or in supermarkets or in movies & commercials when they’re growing up but maybe never know who the artist is. Songs like Bohemian Rhapsody, Somebody To Love, We Will Rock You, & Another Bites the Dust. Songs that everybody knows.

But hidden among their awesome popular songs are an incredible number of awesome lesser-known gems. These songs are seriously fantastic & just as good, if not better, in some cases, than their popular songs, & are filled with brilliant & moving harmonies, Brian May’s soaring & evocative guitar solos, epic instrumentation, Freddie Mercury’s unique & expressive voice, & let’s not forget about the perfect textbook examples of fantastic rhythm instrumentation by John Deacon & Roger Taylor.

Note : it’s admittedly really hard to narrow it down to only 10 songs, so at some point I will inevitably end up making ANOTHER list of more awesome-but-more-obscure Queen songs.

Here are the songs :

1. Spread Your Wings (News of the World, 1977)

2. March of the Black Queen (Queen II, 1974)

3. You & I (A Day at the Races, 1976)

4. Doing Alright (Queen, 1973)

5. Liar (Queen, 1973)

6. Brighton Rock (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)

7. Long Away (A Day at the Races, 1976)

8. The Hero (Flash Gordon Soundtrack, 1980)

9. Breakthru (The Miracle, 1989)

10. Cool Cat (Hot Space, 1982)

Playlist // Songs, #1

Classic songs that remind me of my teenage years.

Songs #1 // Playlist by Ashlee Craft


Listen to the playlist on YouTube

1. In My Life – The Beatles

2. Strawberry Fields Forever – The Beatles

3. Handle With Care – The Traveling Wilburys

4. Oh! You Pretty Things – David Bowie

5. A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles

6. Strawberry Fields Forever – The Runaways

7. Sail Away – Styx

8. Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac

9. Dreams – Fleetwood Mac

10. Nights in White Satin – The Moody Blues

11. Life on Mars? – David Bowie

12. Beautiful Day – U2

13. Starman – David Bowie

14. Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin

15. Something – The Beatles

16. California Dreamin’ – The Mamas & the Papas

17. I Will – The Beatles

18. Father of Day, Father of Night – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band

19. Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin

Playlist // Remember

Remember // Playlist by Ashlee Craft

Listen to the playlist on Youtube

1. Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye

2. Turn to Stone – Electric Light Orchestra

3. Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles

4. Your Song – Elton John

5. All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix

6. Heartbeat – The Runaways

7. So What – John Coltrane & Miles Davis

8. ‘Till There Was You – The Beatles

9. Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress – The Hollies

10. From Me to You – The Beatles

11. Over the Hills & Far Away – Led Zeppelin

12. Until the End of the World – U2

13. The Zoo – Scorpions

14. Hello Goodbye – The Beatles

15. Maybe I’m Amazed – Paul McCartney & Wings

16. No More Lonely Nights – Paul McCartney

17. I’m Happy Just to Dance With You – The Beatles

18. I Can Hear Music – The Beach Boys

19. Fun Fun Fun – The Beach Boys

20. Beautiful People – Melanie

21. Crazy on You – Heart

22. Sunshine of Your Love – Cream

23. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns ‘n Roses

24. Take Five – Dave Brubeck

25. Don’t Worry Baby – The Beach Boys