Tom Petty-George Harrison-Learning To Fly

Tom Petty-George Harrison-Learning To Fly

A Happy Accident 

It was an exciting time for music and to be alive.

In October of 1988, the Traveling Wilburys were born out of a chance meeting of George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Jeff  Lynne, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. For a brief period in time, the stars and planets in the heavens aligned to bring these five musicians to one location at a specific time frame to record some of the best music ever.

The first album came out to rave reviews and brought back the magic of an earlier era in rock and roll. It was like finding the lost chord and keeping it in your back pocket. But to me what informed  this music and what came out in each song was the fact that all five musicians were friends and fans of one another, as Tom Petty later stated, “I love to hear these guys sing so much that for me I could have just sat there and listened.”

For Tom, the Wilburys was the band George always wanted. As it was not harrowed by the giant egos of John and Paul and the madness that defined the Beatles. Whether by intention or just a sign from above these five came together into a coherent whole. But the gods were watching and the sands of time in the hourglass were falling ever so determined. In all the excitement of the album and it’s positive reception, on December 6, Roy Orbison died in the midst of his comeback tour and his success in the Wilburys.

Full Moon Fever

Still, we were an enlightened bunch for our times.

In 1989, Tom Petty’s first solo album ‘Full Moon Fever’ was released in April of that year. It seemed as though that’s all you heard wherever you went, like it was coming out of thin air as the wind carried it forth. It was the kind of album that you’d worn out and are probably on your 3rd or 4th copy. It was the soundtrack to that specific summer in my life.

And what was it about Tom’s solo effort that seemed to speak directly to me, besides the fact that George and Jeff helped in the production and performed on a few tracks? It was good, it was simple, it was just rock and roll. The kind where the music stays in your head as you sing the lyrics in the car out loud, windows down as your foot is tapping in time on the accelerator.

While The World Gently Weeps

As I sensed the beginning of the end of the music, the moon went into hiding behind darkened clouds.

On the 29th of November, 2001, George Harrison died, devastated, it sent to my soul a sense of lost which I still feel today.  I read somewhere that Tom also took his death hard as he reminisced that the recording of the first Traveling Wilburys album was some of the best times of his life.

I would see Tom again in the Concert For George, organized by Eric Clapton and performed at the Albert Hall on the one year anniversary of George’s death. I also saw when Tom and Jeff Lynne induct George into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The music was still there, maybe lower in volume as I hung onto every word sung and every chord played. I took it for granted that Tom would always be there to safeguard the music, to make sure it was always accessible.

So in the events of Monday, October 2 that Tom Petty had indeed passed, I took it hard and needed space and as I wrote, my thought fixated on the summer of 89′, and I could feel the sun like a bridge across the years wrapping its arms around me.


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I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in October of 2012. These are my writings of life and love after the fall but during a time of deep creativity either because or in spite of my illness... Peace and Love... JC

14 thoughts on “Tom Petty-George Harrison-Learning To Fly”

  1. Thank you for your post about these great musicians and I am sorry for your sadness about the death of Tom Petty. We have our heroes and it is at times hard to see them pass.
    One positive thing I can see is that they leave such a body of work behind for all their followers that you can always hear them.
    I wish that that was the way with some close people whose voices get fainter as time goes and I so would love to hear again.

    You put on some music now and let the tears flow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Miriam, for your understanding. It came as a .suroerise to hear the news of Tom’s passing. I not only was a fan but in various bands, I played some of his music. So you connect on a certain level with this person and need time to reflect and even laugh at some of the adventures his music was performed on. It’s a time for respect and thanks and yes to feel sad. And after the death of Greg Allman and now Tom Petty so soon after, it does leave one a little humbled.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeff, this is a touching tribute to a much loved musician and your sense of loss is palpable. I was saddened to learn of his death and knew of him mostly through the Travelling Willburys but didn’t know much of the personal history of the group…thank you for writing it so clearly and concisely. A great song and I’ll steam the album you mention and look forward to listening to it. Hope your spirits lift a bit soon…that the music , to paraphrase your brilliant last line, will wrap its arms around you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Annika, I think you will like both albums. To me, Tom is sort of a poet for everyone in the ways of love and life for the young at heart. On U Tube there is a biography called ‘The Real Story of the Travelin Wilburys.’. It’s an excellent film produced by George Harrison’s wife, Olivia. Have a good day!

      Liked by 1 person

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