Blog

Tom Petty: A Real Highwayman's Farewell - by Ricki C.

(editor’s note/reader advisory: Ricki C.’s first blog in awhile on Pencilstorm contains strong language, which, truthfully the Pencisltorm Editorial Board chose not to edit, because we’re all a little afraid of Ricki, so we don’t like to screw with his copy.  Consequently, you might wanna keep the kids from reading, or at least monitor the new words they learn.

Also, the Editorial Board HAS detected the vaguely suicidal leanings in the piece, but Ricki is, after all, a West Side Rocker, so we all think he’ll be okay in the long run, but we ARE monitoring the situation.) 


It’s not exactly a state secret that I haven’t been writing for Pencilstorm for the last few months.  Long story short: my sister Dianne died at the end of November, 2017, after losing a two-year battle with cancer, first slowly, then suddenly (to quote a Watershed tune, I just realized) and I was staying with her at her house in Grove City for her last six weeks while she was in hospice care.  I fully realize that thousands, if not millions, of people have lived through that situation: caring for a loved one in hospice, and I'm not presuming to speak for anyone else here, just for myself, but I have to say - it’s not noble, it’s not life-affirming, it doesn’t offer a loving sense of closure, it’s just sad and heartbreaking.  (I don’t know how hospice care nurses – all of whom, Mount Carmel nurses in my particular case, were wonderful & caring – do their jobs.  I only had to do this once, they do it dozens, if not hundreds, of times.)  

Plus Mike Parks – the fucking GENIUS lead guitarist of Colin’s League Bowlers band – lost his bout with stomach cancer a couple of weeks ago.  

And right before all that Tom Petty died.

Tom’s back in the news this week, because it seems he didn’t die of heart failure at 66 years old as was initially reported, he died of an accidental opioid-related overdose.  Myself, I will turn 66 in 2018, and I’m already on my second cardiac pacemaker (got my first before I turned 50), so I wasn’t all that elated about the “dead of heart failure at 66” news reports about Petty.  It’s oddly comforting to me that Tom died of an overdose, and truthfully, I’m not at all sure it was all that accidental.  It might be comfortable to his children and loved ones to believe it was an accident, but I like to think that Petty took stock of his situation: “I’m 66, I just finished an extensive Farewell Tour with what I thought was just a bad hip, which now turns out to be a fully broken hip that will pain me for the rest of my life, this just might not be a bad time to check out of this existence for good.  I’ve had a long life, I rocked for upwards of 55 of the 66 years I resided on the planet, I made millions of people happy with my rock & roll, in the immortal words of Robert Johnson: I believe it’s time to go.”

I can’t say I blame him.    

I consider an overdose death from Tom Petty after a long & fulfilling GENUINE Farewell Tour a more fitting conclusion to a Rock & Roll Life than many other rockers – Gene Simmons of KISS and Don Henley of the fucking Eagles leap immediately to mind – are ever going to attain.  And Pete Townshend is NEVER going to leave this mortal coil with as much integrity as Tom Petty did.  I find myself wishing at this point that Pete HAD died before he got old.  (And just so our loyal readers don’t find that sentiment a little TOO harsh, I might wish it for myself too.)  

Mr. Petty, I salute you for a Real Highwayman’s Farewell………

"just junk all all across the horizon, a real highwayman's farewell"

- Bruce Springsteen, 1973