When I was touring with my friend Joe Ginsberg three years ago, I was in a very dark mood. A new wave of depression had hit me like a hurricane- without a reason and without warning. At some point during the tour, when I found myself to be unbearable, when I thought about canceling the rest of the shows, when virtually all seemed lost we were driving from Munich deep into the mountains of Berchtesgaden. Laurin, our tourmanager was driving, I was sitting in the middle row, staring out of the window with empty eyes. Despite the bright sunshine, the clear blue sky and the beautiful scenery, I couldn’t help the fact that the world was getting darker and darker with the second. All of a sudden we turned a corner. When you drive from Munich to Berchtesgaden there is this one moment on the motorway when, completely out of the blue, a mountain range materializes on the horizon, a majestic massif of white, grey and green.
I had my headphones on, my iPod was set to shuffle mode. My eyes gazed from the mountains to the fields and back to the mountains and back to the fields. I opened the window and the smell of fresh grass creeped into my nostrils. Shuffle mode jumped to the next song. It was a live version of Tom Petty’s Learning to Fly. “Well I started out, down a dirty road…” I looked behind me, Joe Ginsberg and his newly-wed wife Amanda were cuddled up in the back, even looking madly in love when asleep. “Well some say life will beat you down, yeah, it’ll break your heart, steal your crown…but I’m learning to fly…” At one point in that particular live version, the crowd starts singing the chorus and Tom improvises over it. “I’m learning to fly… over my troubles… over my worries…”.
I had felt numb for weeks, slowly spiraling into darkness and for the first time in what felt like ages, I saw the silver lining. I couldn’t help but smile. I felt tears running down my cheek. Tears of joy. Tears of release. Tom Pettys voice, my personal epiphany. Everything was going to be ok, somehow, eventually. Joe and I started playing Learning to Fly as an enchore on that tour, every show, every night.
Tom Petty had healed me that sunny afternoon as he would continue to do on my nights to come, on many occasions. Last night, however, the greatest heartbreaker has broken my heart.
I am devastated for the death of Tom Petty, whom I have never met, but whom I still regard as a friend. Thanks for all the memories that are intertwined with your music, thanks for the healing. Tom, keep rocking the great wide open.