By Emilio Arias
Like a generation of us, I was raised with the lyrics to "Freefalling", "American Girl", and "Running Down a Dream", seemingly downloaded into my consciousness before I was born.
At some point, the spark of creativity and music seems to reach a fever pitch for a select few and turn human into legend. Legend into immortal. And immortal into a very fabric and piece of a culture.
That's what Tom Petty became to so many of us. For every gut punching moment in our lives there was "Crawling Back to You". For every ecstatic dance frenzy there was "Mary Jane's Last Dance". For each hazy karaoke night, we had those fever dream illusions of becoming the man himself.
But you don't wake up one day a legend. You become one over time. With each heart you touch and each moment you shape.
If a life is measured by the people you impact and the legacy you leave then Tom's tapestry stretches into infinity.
I was lucky enough to see him once, in our own backyard at Outsidelands 2014. It was a cold and foggy night; a classic Outsidelands evening. But there was a thrum of energy, a chord of electricity being felt by everyone there. We knew what we were about to witness. And hold witness we did. I was with my lovely girlfriend at the time and while we didn't claim or pretend to be Tom's biggest fans or know every word to every song and idolize the deep cuts, we had special memories shared with him. Falling asleep to his music. Softly singing along and sharing a knowing smile. And that night cemented all of them. We fell deeper into love as we sang "Learning to Fly" at the top of our lungs with 40,000 other people. We took pictures to commemorate the moment we didn't realize we'd only have once. Isn't it incredible how someone you never met and you will never know can bring thousands together and be such an agent of connection. It was an infinite moment with a human that had transcended a common life.
Legends don't die because we keep hearing their names or their work. Legends live forever because those memories are woven into the quilt of our existence.
Thank you for the memories Tom. Now it's our turn to keep you alive in ours. I hope wherever you are you’ve learned to fly.