The Day the Music Died: Las Vegas & Tom Petty

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by Russell S. Glowatz

Yesterday I woke up to news alerts on my phone – another shooting, what else is new? While relatively numb to this uniquely American phenomenon, this mass tragedy was immensely different – music festival goers were violently gunned down in Las Vegas. This one hit close to home – music was under assault. Thinking the day couldn’t possibly get worse, the news came through that Tom Petty was found in cardiac arrest and unresponsive – again thinking the day couldn’t possibly get worse, false reports of his death came through the airwaves spiraling Monday into a foggy haze of misinformation. While reports of his death were premature, he would later slip this mortal coil and join the likes of his Traveling Wilburys compatriots, Roy Orbison and George Harrison. 

I cannot help but think of the day George Harrison passed away. Too young, too soon, dreariness draped that otherwise serene fall afternoon. Yesterday was similarly beautiful and became immensely ickier – the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, coupled with the death of a Mount Rushmore level rock icon, brought us to the precipice of emotional chaos – then our hearts were collectively thrown in a blender, muddied with media misinformation. Now with the knowledge of what actually occurred, America sits in mourning. Music was burned on both ends of the candle yesterday – the audience attacked, and a performer taken down. 

The day the music died 2.0 – was this what fans felt like that fateful moment discovering the destiny of Buddy, Ritchie, and the Big Bopper? The emotional stew we find ourselves in must have been similar to what was experienced in February of ’59. Yet they survived, and so will we – and the music never really died at all, did it? Within a few short years, the rock ‘n’ roll scene thrived like never before, as will the festival scene, and the music scene at large right now. I have a feeling we won’t miss a beat – however the cold harsh reality now exists that music festivals, concerts, and gatherings are now active targets of terrorism, domestic or otherwise.  

Vigilance is now necessary – our favorite escape from the mediocrity of daily existence has been tarnished by the violence of the outside world. How we go about making our scene safe for fans and performers alike at outdoor music events is very much above my pay grade, yet I’m sure the right people are already working on plans. Hopefully they strike a proper balance between security and serenity.  

One way or another, the show must go on, and it will go on. In memoriam of Tom Petty and festival goers gunned down, tribute concerts and events are already being planned – and coincidentally one event that was already in play will now be a fitting memorial. Tom Petty’s music will radiate brightly across the world as we come to terms with these monumental losses. Precautions will be taken, and our escape from the day-to-day will be upheld. Music was violated, yet music will be the very thing that heals us all. “One way or another, this darkness got to give,” and as Mickey Hart poignantly said in response to the Paris attacks on the Bataclan and elsewhere, nearly two years ago, “music is the best healing agent we know.” Music is our lifeblood, one of our quintessential reasons for being, and it can never be silenced.  

 

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