Last night, we learned the tragic news that rock musician Tom Petty passed away at the age of 66.
A singer with over a dozen hits under his belt, including the rock staples “Free Fallin'” and “American Girl,” Petty’s death was a huge loss to the music world. But, in another sense, his passing was also a blow to many Americans who grew up listening to his classic songs on the radio.
At The Political Insider, we want to remember Tom Petty for more than just his impressive catalog of memorable tunes.
We want to pay tribute to one of Petty’s performances that defined our country in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack.
Following the death of nearly 3,000 Americans, musicians band together for a tribute concert to honor the fallen and send a message to Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda killers. The concert was called “America: A Tribute to Heroes” and featured over a dozen artists.
Few of the performances matched the intensity of Petty’s. His blistering rendition of “I Won’t Back Down” was a cathartic moment for America. Not only was it a song of solidarity, it was a ringing message to terrorists around the world who wished America harm: No, we won’t back down.
The song was written in the late 80s, but it never resonated more than when it followed the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Watch the performance below:
But my favorite Petty moment was right after 9/11 when he tried to rip Bin Laden’s lungs out with his eyeballs: https://t.co/XcZBENXpv9
— Matt Welch (@MattWelch) October 2, 2017
It still gives me chills to this day. Notice, as the band plays their hearts out around him, Petty doesn’t deliver the rebellious lyrics in violent or angry tone. He sings them solemnly and with purpose. He enunciates every word slowly, drawing out their defiant meaning, keeping the message clear: America would not be reduced to a scared and petulant child. We would respond with serious force, and ensure that every terrorist hiding in every cave, mountain, corner, and hole in the world knew that our country was far from intimidated. We were ready to fight, and, no, we wouldn’t back down.
Petty’s performance was so inspiring, and it’s what I most remember the day following his much-too-soon passing.
Rest in peace, Tom. Thank you for all the music, and for sharing your incredible musical gifts with America.
Share this incredible story with others, and let them know about the amazing legacy Tom Petty left behind!