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Tom and God

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Did Tom Petty believe in God?

Well, that’s a complicated one. Not unlike any of us - as our views, understanding, or relationship with God tends to be.

While it’s basically impossible to make a judgement (pun intended) on anyone’s faith, I don’t think Tom suffered fools. I don’t think he had a high tolerance for inauthenticity or hypocrisy...and yet we’re all hypocrites at the end of the day, to varying degrees. Simply because none of us live out our highest ideals, values and beliefs fully 100% of the time, do we? So I tend to give more grace to people when it comes to this area of hypocrisy. But that’s not really the point here. I will say that I enjoy finding God in places where you normally wouldn’t expect Him to be or think He’d show up…

I’ll examine this question in 3 parts: Tom’s upbringing, Tom’s friends, and lastly, Tom’s lyrics. And you might find it interesting, pointless or total rubbish. That’s OK.

Part 1: Upbringing

First and foremost, Tom was a southerner. I think knowing this is important to understanding where Tom was coming from with God, and whatever beliefs he may or may not’ve had. One could assume that any foundational understanding or perceptions of God will be filtered through the lens of the South. And the south, when it comes to religion, is a somewhat jacked up. It is a twisted, mysterious, perplexing, paradoxical, fascinating, and mystifying geography when it comes to God, the flesh and the Spirit. It’s one weird place. If you want to see a bizarre and beautiful documentary about this, check out Jim White’s film, “Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus.” It’s filled with strange southern characters, dimly lit honky tonk bars, pool halls, and backwoods Pentecostal churches. Watch it, you might be enthralled. The music is awesome, and I find it hard to believe that places like this actually exist on the map. I think Tom saw glimpses of this world in Florida…

It’s the classic duality of the south. You repent on Sunday morning for your sins on Saturday night.

I read that his parents taught Sunday School at their little church in Gainesville. I can’t imagine Tom showing much interest in going, and perhaps being forced (dragged?) to go at an early age.

During the Heartbreakers 1987 Rock and Roll Caravan Tour, Tom went to Jerusalem. Upon touring the city with Roger McQuinn, and after seeing the wailing wall with a tour guide, he states, “Ten years of Sunday school, and this guys tells me more in 5 minutes.”  The guide says that “Music is holy,” to which McQuinn agrees. I tend to agree as well. I think Tom has mentioned somewhere that he sees the band as a holy thing(?). 10 years of Sunday School was it for Tom, then around age around age 11, his main religion becomes the Church of Elvis Presley. His infamous encounter in 1961 with the King is widely known and well documented. From here, rock and roll devotion would take over. And we’re all lucky for this as a result.

When then the 60’s happened, and the subsequent experimentation with music, drugs, freedom, rebellion, girls, etc. I imagine Tom probably put God on the shelf for a while during this period. Even going as far into the 70’s and early 80’s well, as he was experiencing his first waves of fame and success. His job, lifestyle and trajectory doesn’t fit nicely into the pews of a small southern congregational church. Also safe to say that living in L.A. and being wrapped in the music industry probably didn’t encourage any type of faith, belief, or expression about God. It would be more of the opposite that would be celebrated and/or accepted. Indeed, the Heartbreakers of the 70’s and 80’s were a wild bunch…

Part 2: Friends

But then, Tom sure had some popular friends, and who knows what ways they spoke into his life? Or what types of conversations they had in private, as friends.

1. George Harrison
One of Tom’s closest friends, and fellow Wilbury bandmate. George, the quiet Beatle, was deeply spiritual, as we all know. In the 1960’s, he was introduced to yogis, meditation, and Hinduism, and remained wholly committed for the rest of his life, embracing the Hare Krishna tradition. It’s interesting to note that when Tom passed, there was a small family memorial service held at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine, near L.A. The temple and meditation garden was the same place for the funeral of George Harrison, who died in 2001. I wonder if Tom had a specific wish for this, or if the family chose it…

2. Bob Dylan
Another fellow Wilbury. Just try to untangle the faith and spirituality of Bob Dylan, I dare you. A mystery wrapped in an enigma, Dylan caused quite the stir when he released three explicitly evangelical Christian albums between the years 1979-1981. Benmont played on the final album of the “trilogy”, 1981’s Shot of Love. Who knows where Bob stood in these matters afterwards, and when he was in a band with Tom? Yet, in every interview I’ve ever read or watched, Bob’s never afraid to address or speak his mind on God.

3. Rick Rubin
A hippie-mystic-guru-meditation-music lover type of guy. All over the map in some ways, but appears to be centered and grounded in others. The decade of American Recordings he did with Cash is some of the best music ever created, IMHO. Having a discussion once about communion, Rubin informed Cash that he had never taken communion before. Surprised, Cash invited and insisted they partake together. Which they did, nearly every day, even over the phone if it wasn’t possible to do it in person.

4. Johnny Cash
Cash was a great man of faith (and a walking contradiction, as Kristofferson says). Cash was friends with saints (Billy Graham) and sinners (the rest of us). To be in his presence was to be in awe, and slightly afraid. An artist recognized for his authenticity, and his marriage to June was something to behold. Cash and Tom became close friends in the 1990’s, during the making of Unchained. Tom speaks highly of this time, the recording of this album, and his love for Johnny and June.

I have to believe that each of these people had an influence on Tom - his faith outlook, his beliefs, his spirituality - during different points & turns of his life. Close friends tend to do that.

In 1996, I read a speech he gave to a crowd of students at UCLA, upon receiving the "George and Ira Gershwin Award For Lifetime Musical Achievement." (you can find it in the summer 1996 TPATH Fan Club Newsletter). This was in the midst of recording with Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins:

“At the end of the session he (Carl) took me aside and he said, 'You know, I really like you, Tom.' "And I said, 'Well, what are you getting at, Carl?' "And Carl said, 'I don't know. I just feel that tonight with us playing here that there was a lot of God in the room.' And I looked at him and he said, 'You know, I don't know Tom, if you believe in heaven but it's really nice thinking even if you don't.' "And I said, 'Well, Carl, I just hope that I get there.' "And it really touched me what he said -- he said, 'I really believe all us boys that kinda knocked around on those guitars and drums and things and went through life and were pretty good people and just tried to play a little music and stayed out of people's way -- maybe had an occasional joint -- we may have raised a little too much hell at times, but still found the time to help people whenever we could. I believe that one day we're gonna all sit around somewhere and play music like we did tonight.' And he said, 'When you get there, Tom, I'm gonna give you the best guitar God's got.' “And that really touched me. I want to tell you all that whatever your concept of God is, I believe that He writes the songs and it's just sent down through me, you know, and other songwriters. I feel like a receiver -- and tonight I'm really grateful to receive this award.”

He sounds completely sincere and abundantly grateful for the gifts and life that God has given him. “God writes the songs.” Which brings us to…

Part 3: Lyrics

Let’s look at a few instances where any concepts of God popped up in his lyrics. These are just a few that come to mind, for the sake of this musing.

1. “Oh baby, don't it feel like heaven right now” and “You take it on faith, you take it the heart, the waiting is the hardest part.” (1981) A stretch? Sure…

2a. “I was born a rebel, down in Dixie on a Sunday Morning.” (1985)

2b. Southern Accents, the song (1985)
There's a dream I keep having, where my momma comes to me
And kneels down over by the window, and says a prayer for me
Got my own way of praying, but every one's begun
With a southern accent, where I come from

Maybe the most intimate and personal Tom has been, lyrically. He didn’t really start to address or even hint at God in his songs until around the time of Southern Accents (the album). He had grown up a bit, and lost his mother a few years earlier. This had an effect on him, and now he was ready to get reflective in his writing. The song becomes a beautiful southern prayer of sorts.

This was also a time when Tom was using cocaine, staying up all night, addicted to cigarettes and Coca Cola, had self-admitted anger issues, as well as relationship/marital problems. A time when TPATH goes out on the road with the largest Confederate flag ever sewn together as a backdrop to their stage show. Complete with the Rebelettes, a group of female back up singers. Again, the twisted duality of the Southern thing. The wrestling with the flesh and the spirit. Having it both ways. (For a deep dive on the duality of the south, listen to “Southern Rock Opera” by the Drive By Truckers. I have to think this was a more complete and realized “Southern Accents”)

3. “Gypsies at home watching Jerry Falwell on TV
Might mean somethin' to you, it ain't nothin' to me” (1985)
The mid-1980’s were a rough time for televangelists, to put it mildly.

4. “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down.” (1989) Impossible not to include! :)

5. With “I can only thank God it was not too late”, a line he repeats multiple times. Ah, the lovely Angel Dream (1996). And it sounds sincere, like he’s finally found salvation in the form of love.

6. “They love it (rock and roll) like you love Jesus,
It does the same thing to their souls” (2002)
Well, we know that Tom understood the devotion part of it. He knows both have the potential to save your soul.

And yet, still I get the feeling that Tom would rather worship at the altar of Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chet Atkins, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis (cousin of Jimmy Swaggart!!) and James Brown. And….what do all of these artists have in common? Many, if not all, grew up in the Southern Pentecostal Church. Just food for thought. You can’t ever really get away from it, once it’s in your system. Bruce Springsteen frequently mentions that he is still carrying and grappling with his upbringing in the Catholic Church, not able to shake growing up in the shadow of St. Rose of Lima Church in Freehold, NJ. I personally think it makes for a more compelling artistry, and I appreciate folks who don’t shy away from it. I’m thinking of artists like Cash, U2, Leonard Cohen, Cat Stevens/Yusef, Lenny Kravitz, Lauryn Hill, Kings of Leon, Kanye West, Marvin Gaye, where I find strong undertones of God, faith and spirituality in their music. There’s probably a hundred more we could mention. Sometimes this is the best church…

Then there’s latter day Petty.

7. Playing Dumb, a bonus track from Hypnotic Eye (2014). A scathing indictment about the recent (and appalling) scandals that have have rocked the Catholic Church.

“I’m still throwin' up some of that food my mind was fed
Well let's light a candle for every kid
For every soul that was done away with
For every confession that wasn't on the level
For every man of God that lives with hidden devils.”
Ouch. Say like it is…

8. Finally, I forgive It All (2016)
A hymn of sorts. Fact or fiction? Who is his niece Lauren? Was this song directed to people or events from his past, someone like Jane? Was he relieving himself of any burdens or bitterness he was carrying that comes from unforgiveness? Speculation, yes, but you never know.

Random Thoughts
- I’ve believe I’ve seen Tom wear a cross around his neck in photos through the years. Also, during the 2016 Mudcrutch tour, I remember seeing a photo of Tom wearing a black vest, with a huge cross stitching on the back of the vest. Not saying anything specific, just mentioning it. It might just mean that he’s not afraid to wear/display a cross.

- At the end of many concerts, particularly near the end of his career, Tom’s final words from the stage were often, “Thank you, God bless you.” Yes, a lot of artists say this, but you can mean it too. I tend to think that Tom got more grateful with each passing year for the incredible gift and life he was given with his band.

Again, “Let me be clear” (in best Obama voice), I’m not making any conclusions whatsoever. Just observations. Do I think TP knew or believed in God? Don’t know. It’s too personal. Maybe even Dana Petty and Mike Campbell don’t know where Tom stood with these things.

Tom’s relationship with God was complex, contradictory, nuanced and ongoing. Like each of ours is.

Which brings me back to Part 1. If I were to poetically sum it up, I would use this line from Rebels: “I was born a rebel, down in Dixie on a Sunday Morning.”

Thanks for reading!

 

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Take a look to the "thanks" section in some of his records...

"Thanks to God, Jane... etcetera"

The end of the shows: "God bless you!".

Yep, I think he believed in God.

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I believe "EVERYONE" has the right to believe in their own GOD, whoever or whatever that God is. Some think their Ferrari is their god, others believe in a God that was on this earth millions or hundreds of years ago. It doesn't matter what you believe in as long as it matters to YOU. What Tom believed in is none of our business, and shouldn't be brought up here or anywhere. Talking religion is worse than talking politics except in a church or political debate, neither of which are here in a musical situation. The most noticed religious musical figure in history was George Harrison because no one before or after the Beatles were more scrutinized, publicized, immortalized, terrorized, hypnotized and commercialized. Tom was a celebrity, but not quite the status of a Beatle and neither Tom, a Beatle or ANYONE should be brought up in a conversation about religion. If you want to discuss religion, go to church or sit in a dark corner and pray to your own God. I just hope you aren't sitting in your garage now drinking a beer and praying to a 20 year old Toyota!!!! Sorry if I offended anyone, but that's my feeling in a nutshell. Stay inside and have a great day.

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I've prayed that he had a relationship with Jesus before the end; being a Christian, I can only hope (and pray). Musicians are rarely lacking in spirituality, as they tend to recognise (alluded to in RedfordCowboy's initial post)  that music has such on impact on us it seems to transcend natural experiences and have some element of the supernatural.

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8 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

And you might find it interesting, pointless or total rubbish.

I'm glad you wrote this up and posted it. When I've the chance I plan on taking my time and reading it with a nice hot mug of coffee (non-Maxwell), enjoying a totally new and refreshing topic and perspective and seeing if I have anything to add or not.

cheers

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3 hours ago, TomFest said:

Tom said "God Bless" from the stage every night.  Atheists don't do that.  Pretty simple.

It's more just a saying than an actual blessing from most people. Think when people sneeze. I'm pretty close to being an atheist but I'll still say "God dammit" or "God bless you"

Plus, I concur with Nurk on this one. Believe what you want and will as long as it harms no one, just don't go around proselytizing to others and telling them how their not living their lives to scripture or dogma. We have free will for a reason

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17 hours ago, nurktwin said:

What Tom believed in is none of our business, and shouldn't be brought up here or anywhere. Talking religion is worse than talking politics except in a church or political debate,

What Tom believed isn't our business, that's true.

But at the same time, we're not prying into his private letters or bothering his family and RedfordCowboy has explored the topic in a respectful way. He's not proseltyzing but just examining a heretofore unexplored area and isn't that what this place is for, polite, thoughtful discussion of Tom and the band and their music. Of which, Redford has connected the topic and theme of his post directly to Tom's lyrics.

Even when people disagree, even vehemently disagree it never goes beyond some quick, barbed sarcasm or brief flash of anger or disbelief, and at rarely at that. Most people are polite here and I think even a potentially touchy subject like God or Tom's beliefs or lyrical content dealing with can be discussed here. 

Sipping hot coffee more to come later.

ciao

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21 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

I will say that I enjoy finding God in places where you normally wouldn’t expect Him to be or think He’d show up…

I understand and feel likewise normally.

21 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

Simply because none of us live out our highest ideals, values and beliefs fully 100% of the time, do we?

Heck, I think if I pulled off even 50% of the time I'd be, well, not impressed with myself but a better person for sure. 

21 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

One could assume that any foundational understanding or perceptions of God will be filtered through the lens of the South. And the south, when it comes to religion, is a somewhat jacked up. It is a twisted, mysterious, perplexing, paradoxical, fascinating, and mystifying geography when it comes to God, the flesh and the Spirit. It’s one weird place. If you want to see a bizarre and beautiful documentary about this, check out Jim White’s film, “Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus.” It’s filled with strange southern characters, dimly lit honky tonk bars, pool halls, and backwoods Pentecostal churches. Watch it, you might be enthralled. The music is awesome, and I find it hard to believe that places like this actually exist on the map. I think Tom saw glimpses of this world in Florida…

Very interesting. Good insights. 

21 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

I can’t imagine Tom showing much interest in going, and perhaps being forced (dragged?) to go at an early age.

Ironically enough I can see that having the opposite than intended effect.

21 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

to Jerusalem. Upon touring the city with Roger McQuinn, and after seeing the wailing wall with a tour guide, he states, “Ten years of Sunday school, and this guys tells me more in 5 minutes.”  The guide says that “Music is holy,” to which McQuinn agrees. I tend to agree as well. I think Tom has mentioned somewhere that he sees the band as a holy thing(?).

It's hard to imagine a trip to Jerusalem wouldn't have some level of profound effect, even an atheist if only for the history of the region. As for his feelings towards music, yes, makes complete sense of what (limited) info we have on Tom.

21 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

I imagine Tom probably put God on the shelf for a while during this period. Even going as far into the 70’s and early 80’s well, as he was experiencing his first waves of fame and success. His job, lifestyle and trajectory doesn’t fit nicely into the pews of a small southern congregational church. Also safe to say that living in L.A. and being wrapped in the music industry probably didn’t encourage any type of faith, belief, or expression about God. It would be more of the opposite that would be celebrated and/or accepted. Indeed, the Heartbreakers of the 70’s and 80’s were a wild bunch…

I guess it depends on what you mean as by putting God on the shelf. Now that I've read your essay (and thanks again for taking the time to write it and develop a completely new topic on the board) I realize how little this spiritual angle was explored with him. Probably too personal, I've a hard time picturing Tom answering questions on such a topic from a random interviewer. Perhaps there's some cutting room floor from Zollo or Zane's books on this. I don't know. 

Certainly I agree that being a successful rock band in Los Angeles in any era of time, even under "lockdown" doesn't lend itself to faith, belief, consideration of God generally speaking. 

21 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

Surprised, Cash invited and insisted they partake together. Which they did, nearly every day, even over the phone if it wasn’t possible to do it in person.

Interesting. I didn't know this.

21 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

I have to believe that each of these people had an influence on Tom - his faith outlook, his beliefs, his spirituality - during different points & turns of his life. Close friends tend to do that.

Makes sense.

21 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

“And that really touched me. I want to tell you all that whatever your concept of God is, I believe that He writes the songs and it's just sent down through me, you know, and other songwriters. I feel like a receiver -- and tonight I'm really grateful to receive this award.”

This could just be the heart of it really. I don't know. I think Tom believed in God but not neccessarily of any particular religious faith. 

More on this later.

cheers

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21 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

“Oh baby, don't it feel like heaven right now” and “You take it on faith, you take it the heart, the waiting is the hardest part.” (1981) A stretch? Sure…

Yeah, way too much of a stretch in my opinion.

21 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

Maybe the most intimate and personal Tom has been, lyrically. He didn’t really start to address or even hint at God in his songs until around the time of Southern Accents (the album). He had grown up a bit, and lost his mother a few years earlier. This had an effect on him, and now he was ready to get reflective in his writing. The song becomes a beautiful southern prayer of sorts.

I agree; while not a favorite of mine, one I rarely listen to as musically it doesn't really grab me, there's no denying the power of the lyric and the emotion in Tom's voice. This does indeed feel like a vote as it were for Tom leaning towards the spiritual, towards God. In my opinion.

21 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

This was also a time when Tom was using cocaine, staying up all night, addicted to cigarettes and Coca Cola, had self-admitted anger issues, as well as relationship/marital problems. A time when TPATH goes out on the road with the largest Confederate flag ever sewn together as a backdrop to their stage show. Complete with the Rebelettes, a group of female back up singers. Again, the twisted duality of the Southern thing. The wrestling with the flesh and the spirit. Having it both ways.

You said it, man! Having it both ways indeed, but then, don't we all to one degree or another? I don't know what he (or they) were thinking with that southern flag though. But then, that extends to the horns too and even the Rebelettes.

21 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

Gypsies at home watching Jerry Falwell on TV
Might mean somethin' to you, it ain't nothin' to me” (1985)
The mid-1980’s were a rough time for televangelists, to put it mildly.

Wow! It's fun to see someone quote one of TPATH's best songs. Wasn't the 80s good for them in terms of profit though? Even if bad by eventual reputation and scandal? 

Anyway, what a song, the way it cuts to that sweet part of her dancing...and the give-and-take during the verses with the song's title, Tom's delivery, the funky playing...! All right, back to your topic.

21 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

6. “They love it (rock and roll) like you love Jesus,
It does the same thing to their souls” (2002)
Well, we know that Tom understood the devotion part of it. He knows both have the potential to save your soul.

I'd say this and Supernatural Radio would be strikes against Tom being a Christian. Not that you are saying that, just that it's a part of the discussion. Both songs in those moments feel mocking of if not Jesus, than the faith that arose. I could be wrong though but despite the power of rock music, perhaps the Divine inspiration for such, it feels a bit facetious, to put it on the same level as Divnity made flesh and/or a whole group of peoples's beliefs. While I never cared for Have Love wll travel, I still think Supernatural Radio is one of their finer songs. The latter to me, seemed more of an attack or playful mockery of the conmen using religion and the former if not an outright dismissal. Come watch a rock band, it's as good as church...! Now Tom might feel that way, might have felt that way, that the music was as powerful, I just think there's a bit of a fallacy in that, not denying the power of music but it almost feels hypocritical in and of itself, especially from a band who so loved music and the crowd that they were racing off in limos after one encore while the crowd asked/begged/demanded more. Oh wait, here it comes, you know it's coming....for a band that largely stuck to the same set list, isn't that as staid and hypocritical as some of the tv preachers he railed against in IANTM?

Same with the canned banter? But then, you began this by saying few live up to their ideals 100%. 

Anyway, I don't really think the former song, nor the latter really point to Tom's beliefs, maybe more to what he despises which would be hypocrisy and corruption.

More yet to come eventually.

 

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21 hours ago, RedfordCowboy said:

And yet, still I get the feeling that Tom would rather worship at the altar of Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Chet Atkins, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis (cousin of Jimmy Swaggart!!) and James Brown. And….what do all of these artists have in common? Many, if not all, grew up in the Southern Pentecostal Church.

Yeah, that's how it comes across to me. That Tom, even if he did believe in God, felt his talent and ability were God-given (my speculation but also, he says as much up above) and that he had this drive, this dream to be doing what he did and perhaps eased life for many people the world over. I could be wrong but I think that makes sense! But how Tom really felt, well...what he really believed seems like not one for organized religion though like you say, maybe he still carried some of that early Southern Christian background with him. I don't know.

More eventually.

cheers

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On April 10, 2020 at 12:51 PM, RedfordCowboy said:

Many, if not all, grew up in the Southern Pentecostal Church. Just food for thought. You can’t ever really get away from it, once it’s in your system. Bruce Springsteen frequently mentions that he is still carrying and grappling with his upbringing in the Catholic Church, not able to shake growing up in the shadow of St. Rose of Lima Church in Freehold, NJ. I personally think it makes for a more compelling artistry, and I appreciate folks who don’t shy away from it. I’m thinking of artists like Cash, U2, Leonard Cohen, Cat Stevens/Yusef, Lenny Kravitz, Lauryn Hill, Kings of Leon, Kanye West, Marvin Gaye, where I find strong undertones of God, faith and spirituality in their music. There’s probably a hundred more we could mention. 

Your enthusiasm for this subject really shines through RedfordCowboy. Since we're speculating, I figure Tom did wrestle with his belief in God, with his Southern Christian upbringing...he seems like too introspective a man not to have. One could say it's challenging enough trying to maintain an ideal, a faith in the regular world, let alone the hypercharged craziness of the music industry. How does any marriage survive, I don't know man. 

On April 10, 2020 at 12:51 PM, RedfordCowboy said:

Playing Dumb, a bonus track from Hypnotic Eye (2014). A scathing indictment about the recent (and appalling) scandals that have have rocked the Catholic Church

This is a side tangent to your points here about Tom and his belief, but this is a case where the lyrics just repel me from listening to the song. I don't want to be thinking about the horrible Catholic church cover-up and crimes while listening to rock music, it's an escape from the sorrows of the world. 

On April 10, 2020 at 12:51 PM, RedfordCowboy said:

Finally, I forgive It All (2016)
A hymn of sorts. Fact or fiction? Who is his niece Lauren? Was this song directed to people or events from his past, someone like Jane? Was he relieving himself of any burdens or bitterness he was carrying that comes from unforgiveness? Speculation, yes, but you never know.

This one seems too vague to me, and any similiarity or hymn-like feel would be more due to the style of music, the country band Mudcrutch and growing up in the Southern Pentecostal region as you note above.

On April 10, 2020 at 12:51 PM, RedfordCowboy said:

wearing a black vest, with a huge cross stitching on the back of the vest. Not saying anything specific, just mentioning it. It might just mean that he’s not afraid to wear/display a cross.

It's hard to say because I remember when the cross became a popular or en vogue (?) item for people to wear, not as declaration of their faith but more as just something hip. While I think it's passe as a fashion statement, it could just be viewed that way, and while let's say the image of the Buddha wasn't at that level of fashion (or was he? I don't know) it seems to be as much evidence as Tom wearing a t-shirt with the Buddha's image on it. 

Then again, maybe towards the end of his life he was becoming more in touch with his spiritual beginnings, or at least maybe the underlying ideas and things Jesus said rather than the church built up over those parables. 

I'm surprised you didn't mention Red River: 

She’s got a 3D Jesus in a picture frame
Got a child she’s never named
She shakes a snake above her hair
Talks in tongues when there’s no one there

I guess I view it more as storytelling but the 3D image definitely sounds like something junky, a pathetic materialistic vision of the Divine. If you need the image to be 3D well, isn't that saying something about the quality of the person's faith? So maybe you didn't mention Red River because it's more critical of someone spreading their faith out over a variety of talismans; I don't know.

On April 10, 2020 at 12:51 PM, RedfordCowboy said:

I tend to think that Tom got more grateful with each passing year for the incredible gift and life he was given with his band.

I agree with this too. It's how he came across to me. 

On April 10, 2020 at 12:51 PM, RedfordCowboy said:

, I’m not making any conclusions whatsoever. Just observations. Do I think TP knew or believed in God? Don’t know. It’s too personal.

Thanks again for taking the time to write this up and post it here. It's an interesting topic for sure and as far as I can tell, very much unexplored. My impression is he believed in God without sticking to any one particular faith. Whenever he did mention Jesus, it seemed either from an ironic or sad distance of an observer "free fallin'", mockery to a degree or as a comparison, Have Love Will Travel and back to distant observer in Red River. I could be wrong but I don't think Tom is mocking Jesus, but instead if pointing and deriding the hypocrisy or the sad commercialistic elements accrued with time by the corrupt.

I think he'd agree with "...do unto others..." but as for any strict religious or even a casual one, I just don't know. But I think he did believe in God.

cheers

 

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No, thank you MJ2LD for all the commenting on the original post...I appreciate you taking the time to add your thoughts to the mix. It appears like you spent some time mulling it over, while enjoying a good cup of non-Maxwell House coffee. That's the best one could hope for - that others could check it out, maybe find certain aspects interesting, and keep an open mind in the process.

Good point about Red River - I just missed that one :)

Good point also about wearing a cross. Perhaps that doesn't mean a thing. Just fashion, or the opposite of fashion...

I get that this topic may not interest some, and I also agree that it feels like an unexplored area. So I thought I'd take a dive into something different. Shake off the doldrums & inactivity on the Farm that naturally happen from time to time. It's not as epic as Mindbender, but how could it be?

I did try to be thoughtful and respectful about it. And to try and use as much of Tom's words/quotes/lyrics that I could to paint any pictures or southern landscapes. And most importantly, to make sure I didn't arrive at a specific conclusion.

I certainly didn't want it to be, "Look! Tom said thanks to God in a random liner note, so therefore..."

To me, that cheapens the conversation, makes it less interesting or entertaining.

For example, take Springsteen's superb album Devils and Dust. The songs "Jesus Was an Only Son" and "Reno" are on the same album. I love it when artists are free to express & address the totality of the human experience, and thus allowing for certain things to resonate with different people in different way at different times. For example, Tom's line, "Well it was nearly summer, we sat on your roof
Yeah, we smoked cigarettes and we stared at the moon..."

I did sit on my girlfriend's roof and we did stare at the moon. And we laughed and talked for hours...We didn't smoke cigarettes, but even still, that line brings me great joy and makes me feel like I'm 17 every time I hear it.

I disagree with the notion that it can't be talked about anywhere at anytime, etc. I mean, if we can talk about something as trivial as which Heartbreaker has the sexiest hair, or whether we prefer Tom with a beard or not, then this one should be fair game. Hey, I challenge someone to do a write up called "Tom and Politics" and look for any areas, songs, lyrics, activism, etc. ever took place. Half joking...

 

 

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On April 13, 2020 at 4:35 PM, RedfordCowboy said:

No, thank you MJ2LD for all the commenting on the original post...I appreciate you taking the time to add your thoughts to the mix. It appears like you spent some time mulling it over, while enjoying a good cup of non-Maxwell House coffee.

You're welcome! And yes, it was from a hearty, rich, dark and bitter bean.

On April 13, 2020 at 4:35 PM, RedfordCowboy said:

I mean, if we can talk about something as trivial as which Heartbreaker has the sexiest hair, or whether we prefer Tom with a beard or not, then this one should be fair game. Hey, I challenge someone to do a write up called "Tom and Politics" and look for any areas, songs, lyrics, activism, etc. ever took place. Half joking...

 

I agree. Regarding politics sure, I figure people can be civil despite whatever their affiliation (or non-afflitiation) is. Certainly I picture Tom as being on the political left (though maybe it became the center over the years) though again, not necessarily being one for a particular party or just blindly following a candidate.

Maybe it wouldn't be as interesting as a topic as Tom's belief or non-belief in God but perhaps some interesting areas could be explored.

cheers

 

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I can not speak to Tom being religious or not, RedfordCowboy makes a compelling argument for both sides of the argument.

For me In the end, I think it's easy to be spiritual and see a greater good and the good in people without bringing religion or God into it. 

I think without a doubt Tom was spiritual and held to some of the religious views of Zen Buddhism,  beyond that we can speculate to the end of time and since none of us met him than more than in passing who is to say what he held as true in his heart?  

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There's a fine line between being a "Rebel" and a "Political Activist" that shouldn't even be mentioned in the same conversation with "Religion". Tom was a rebel in a good teenage way, weren't we all? He was rowdy, he believed in what "he believed in" from an early age, just like we all did. None of that changes with age, what does change is being sick and tired of hearing every critic talk about your life and not their own pathetic life and then you turn off the world and don't give a shit! So you sort of slow down and hide from the public because it's not worth the hassle. George said it best when he said "I back my car out of the driveway and when I get on the road I say to myself "What The Hell Am I Doing Out Here?"

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12 hours ago, nurktwin said:

None of that changes with age, what does change is being sick and tired of hearing every critic talk about your life and not their own pathetic life and then you turn off the world and don't give a shit! So you sort of slow down and hide from the public because it's not worth the hassle.

 I think if people treated famous people as just regular people things would go a lot smoother. I understand if someone's dining out they don't want to be disturbed even if it is by a diehard fan. However, I also understand someone wanting to engage with a famous musician, especially if their work meant so much to them. How rare is that, to actually thank someone face to face? When a famous person snubs a regular person, it can be devastating. A healthy balance sounds like the best bet but would any of us have the forbearance to not interrupt Tom as he's eating an In-n-Out burger and sipping Maxwell House? Maybe some of you have, I don't know. I can understand why someone wouldn't be able to stop themselves. The power of art.

And let's say you're watching Tom enjoy his double-double and get a refill on his Maxwell House and you slide in your set list suggestions (five pages...all right, that's maybe a bit excessive but they're only one-sided!) onto his tray before running back to your videocamera and tripod and zoom in on his mouth as he masticates, well...how could you not?

But that's no one I know who proceeded to politely time his exit with Tom's, and chased, no no, walked quickly after...no no no, occupied pre-Corona distance, comfortable distance of course and asked him why he didn't play Zombie Zoo and where is Tom staying, just y'know, if I...I mean they happened to know of a better place to stay, well...hypothetically who wouldn't behave in such a respectful manner?

Speaking of respect, I think Redford-C did a good job with this topic, broaching a heretofore never discussed issue in an objective manner as possible.  As for critics, I think it a bit harsh to call their lives pathetic, even the ones who don't loiter at In-n-Out restaurants or the instant coffee aisle of Trader Joe's nor pretend to be CBR; that is, Certified Bunn Repairmen.

cheers

 

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On 4/11/2020 at 11:43 AM, martin03345 said:
On 4/11/2020 at 7:57 AM, TomFest said:

Tom said "God Bless" from the stage every night.  Atheists don't do that.  Pretty simple.

It's more just a saying than an actual blessing from most people.

Maybe it's "more just a saying" in your culture.

To me, for someone to choose to say "God Bless", repeatedly, in front of lots of people? Yeah, I take that as: he meant what he said. 

If he didn't believe, he would've expressed himself in another way. He was articulate & did have a talent with words, after all. 

I also feel that his friends' influence would've been profound (especially those ones you write about). Exactly the type of people who're famous for talking openly about their faith & beliefs (well, in their autobiographies anyway). Plus, can you imagine them ignoring their friend wearing a cross & saying "God Bless" if TP didn't have faith? 

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If I may go off on a slight tangent, a while ago I saw votive candles for sale on etsy. They were really cool, as instead of the candle light shining through beautiful pictures of religious saints, the designs were for secular people (musicians, celebrities and characters from movies, TV & literature). You may also have seen these. One was a totally cool TP from Damn The Torpedoes era.

I was torn as I felt a) they are absolutely gorgeous & funny but at same time b) is it a bit weird? & if I bought one, would I be seeing a bolt of lightning coming my way? It was coming up to Christmas gift-buying season & I discussed this with a good friend.

We browsed through etsy together & we saw some cool candle art for fictional characters. I didn't have the same complicated reaction to a real person - a Saint Princess Leia candle? 100% awesome! 

She found one for (Saint) Nick Cave. We both know a deeply religious friend who loves Nick Cave's poetry & lyrics. So we thought: "okay, let's do this, we'll buy it, it's brilliant & funny. She'll love it." Nick Cave has such an eccentric face he makes a compelling saint. 

But alas, the etsy shop was out of stock for both Tom Petty & Nick Cave. :( There was, however, a customer review for Tom's candle that had us both laughing. It was something like: "these are perfect, I've now bought one for everyone in my family." :)

Okay, so I didn't buy any candles...

Some time later, much to my amazement (also to my friend's amazement) what did we see in the background in a Benmont Tench photo? Yup. You may have seen it too?! One of the Torpedoes era Saint TP candles! On the Tench kitchen window-sill, above the Tench kitchen sink! :)

Edited by Big Blue Sky

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Link to similar design (also very hilarious). 

https://www.eartherealdesign.com/candles/tom-petty-pop-culture-prayer-candle?rq=Petty 

Patron Saint of Knowing How It Feels. 

& the Willie Nelson candle by same maker / seller is epic too. 

Anyway, overall, I feel these artisan / creative things give us joy & contribute to the overall happiness in the world. Sure, not to everyone's taste, but that's okay too. Long live the joy of craft & the cheerful unexpected discovery of something new. I doubt any bolts of lightning will be in fact be sent my way. (Or will they? Watch this space! 😉 )

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