Ryan Welton

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Category Archives: 1980s

SiriusXM’s Johnny Carson channel is the best thing they’ve created in years

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I’m a devotee of all-things SiriusXM, and even if I were considering dropping the subscription ($44.99 for two vehicles), my mind would have been changed at the beginning of October.

That’s when the Johnny Carson channel debuted on SiriusXM 105.

They’re playing 1970s and 1980s episodes of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson for the entire month. We’re talking monologue, guests, comedians, the whole enchilada — 90 minutes in the ’70s, the greatest era of Carson.

It’s a joy.

I find myself listening to the interviews as if both Carson and the interviewee were still alive. Much of the time, neither are. Tim Conway told a story about being a Little League dad, and I sighed when I realized that Tim’s grown kids are likely older than I.

But also, it was much less politically correct back in the day. Carson every once in a while would say things that I don’t think folks could get away with in 2019.

I remember my folks watching Carson most every night, at least during the 70s. During the pre-cable era, that’s all that was on aside from a late movie.

Of course, as with many SiriusXM specialty channels, this one ends come Nov. 1. I sure wish they’d reconsider. I could listen to Johnny for hours upon hours. Such terrific nostalgia.

How to Play Kenny Rogers’ classic hit, “Lady”

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Kenny Rogers has had many hits, but this is arguably his most beautiful song. It was written by the great Lionel Richie, and it’s super easy to play. It starts with Dm.

That’s D minor. The chord progression is Dm, Gm9/D, C/D — so you’re basically going from D minor to G minor to C with the D in the right hand. Mind you, watch my right hand as I’m playing the intro. You’re not playing a straight Gm triad in the right hand. You’re playing a Bb, D and an A in the right hand — a Gm9 (G, Bb, D, F, A) You’ll just leave out the G and F.

The first chorus is a pretty straight ahead Gm7, Am7, BbM7, Am7, Dsus

After two verses and choruses, you glissando up and down the piano and hit the BIG BIG chorus where Kenny sings, “LADYYYYYYY” — and that’s BbM7, C/Bb, F, C/E, Dm7, F/C and repeat until you get to the end.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard from Kenny Rogers came on an episode of ‘American Idol’ a whole bunch of years ago: Play the notes and sing the lyrics, but emote the words. Pay attention to the story as you’re singing / playing.

SING ALONG! Here are the lyrics to “Lady” by Kenny Rogers

Lady, I’m your knight in shining armor and I love you
You have made me what I am and I am yours
My love, there’s so many ways I want to say “I love you”
Let me hold you in my arms forever more
You have gone and made me such a fool
I’m so lost in your love
And oh, we belong together
Won’t you believe in my song?
Lady, for so many years I thought I’d never find you
You have come into my life and made me whole
Forever, let me wake to see you each and every morning
Let me hear you whisper softly in my ear
In my eyes, I see no one else but you
There’s no other love like our love
And yes, oh yes, I’ll always want you near me
I’ve waited for you for so long
Lady, your love’s the only love I need
And beside me is where I want you to be
‘Cause, my love, there’s somethin’ I want you to know
You’re the love of my life, you’re my lady

I’m Still Standing: Elton John cover + chord progressions, lyrics

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Elton John’s 1983 hit, “I’m Still Standing,” is my favorite song from the Rocket Man.

I am not playing it in the original key. I’m playing it in A. If you’re following along with the video to try to learn the song, here are the chords:

INTRO: Left hand should stay on A. The chords in the right hand are: Am, Dm7, E, F, G 2X

VERSE: A, D/A, E/A, D/A, A … Bm7, A/D, E, F#m+5, D, A

CHORUS: Am7, G7/B, C, Em, G6 … Dm, E7

And then the “I’m Still Standing” part: Am, Dm7, E7

BRIDGE: A … D, E, F#m, D6 … to the chorus

The tempo to this song is faster than what I’m playing it. I’m guessing 110 BPM? Maybe my BPM radar is a little off. “I’m Still Standing” should definitely be a little faster than this. If you dig the cover and like such things on YouTube, if they ‘spark your joy’ as Marie Kondo says, I’d love it if you’d pay me a visit on YouTube.

Lyrics to “I’m Still Standing”

You could never know what it’s like
Your blood like winter freezes just like ice
And there’s a cold lonely light that shines from you
You’ll wind up like the wreck you hide behind that mask you useAnd did you think this fool could never win
Well look at me, I’m coming back again
I got a taste of love in a simple way
And if you need to know while I’m still standing you just fade awayDon’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mindI’m still standing yeah yeah yeah
I’m still standing yeah yeah yeahOnce I never could hope to win
You starting down the road leaving me again
The threats you made were meant to cut me down
And if our love was just a circus you’d be a clown by nowYou know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mindI’m still standing yeah yeah yeah
I’m still standing yeah yeah yeahDon’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mindI’m still standing yeah yeah yeah
I’m still standing yeah yeah yeahI’m still standing yeah yeah yeah
I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

“PYT” by Michael Jackson: Cover Song of the Week (with Tutorial!)

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For anybody in the 1980s but especially for those of us just hitting puberty in 1982-83, Michael Jackson was the biggest musical influence on everybody. Still is. The man earned his moniker, the ‘King Of Pop’ without reservation — and when listening to today’s music, it’s even more apparent how great he was.

“PYT” was the sixth single from the album “Thriller,” and as the story goes, producer Quincy Jones wasn’t going to include the song on the album. But he did, and it sounds as great 36 years after its release as it did back in the day.

For anybody wanting to learn the song, it starts with a Bm9 chord, moving to a GMaj7 in the verse. It’s pretty easy to learn in that regard. I’m wrapping up a song tutorial and will paste it at the bottom of the blog.

I think by watching me play it, you’ll pick it up pretty easily! Lyrics below the video:

Where did you come from lady
And ooh won’t you take me there
Right away won’t you baby
Tendoroni you’ve got to be
Spark my nature
Sugar fly with me
Don’t you know now
Is the perfect time
We can make it right
Hit the city lights
Then tonight ease the lovin’ pain
Let me take you to the max

I want to love you (P-Y-T)
Pretty young thing
You need some lovin’ (T-L-C)
Tender lovin’ care
And I’ll take you there
I want to love you (P-Y-T)
Pretty young thing
You need some lovin’ (T-L-C)
Tender lovin’ care
And I’ll take you there

(Anywhere you want to go)

Nothin’ can stop this burnin’
Desire to be with you
Gotta get to you baby
Won’t you come, it’s emergency
Cool my fire yearnin’
Honey, come set me free
Don’t you know now is the perfect time
We can dim the lights
Just to make it right
In the night
Hit the lovin’ spot
I’ll give you all that I’ve got

I want to love you (P-Y-T)
Pretty young thing
You need some lovin’ (T-L-C)
Tender lovin’ care
And I’ll take you there
I want to love you (P-Y-T)
Pretty young thing
You need some lovin’ (T-L-C)
Tender lovin’ care
And I’ll take you there

Pretty young things, repeat after me
I said,
Na na na
Na na na na
Na na na na
Na na na
Na na na
I said na na na na na
Na na na na na
I’ll take you there

I want to love you (P-Y-T)
Pretty young thing
You need some lovin’ (T-L-C)
Tender lovin’ care
And I’ll take you there
I want to love you (P-Y-T)
Pretty young thing
You need some lovin’ (T-L-C)
Tender lovin’ care
And I’ll take you there
Songwriters: James Ingram, Quincy Jones

But if you’d like a more in-depth tutorial on how to play “PYT,” perhaps my video, “How To Play ‘PYT’ by Michael Jackson on Piano” will do the trick. Enjoy – and come find more tutorials, covers and originals at youtube.com/ryanweltonmusic.

Easy, easy, easy: How to play “Rosanna” by Toto

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One of my first memories of pop music growing up was being at Camp Egan in Tahlequah, in the pool, and hearing Toto’s “Rosanna.” Sure, I was at “church camp,” but let me assure you that it was closer to something out of “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” more than it was anything our parents hoped it would be.

And “Rosanna” was the jam of the summer.

I didn’t know who this woman was or why she’d leave that poor man, causing him to “hurt so bad.” Then 30 years after thinking the song was about Rosanna Arquette, I learn she was coincidental to the masterpiece. Sure, Steve Porcaro was dating her, but David Paich wrote it about a long lost love and imprinted her name upon it because Steve wanted to divulge his love to her in song.

And then they broke up, and it became all too real.

This song was pretty much the moment I decided that music was awesome. I literally remember being in the pool, thinking two things: I can’t swim, and how awesome was church camp if Toto was its soundtrack!? I wish I was a better player in terms of technique. I’ll never be Toto-level good. I started playing the piano when I was three or four, whenever my dad started showing me flash cards with notes and chords. My dad was a professional musician, straight out of the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, and I’ve been fakin’ it for four decades.

But what I’ve lacked in technical skill I’ve more than made up for in passion.

So, I put together this tutorial to help other passionate musicians fake their way through “Rosanna” to impress somebody at work, the bar or maybe a girl named Rosanna.

The song starts in G, and you can chord between G and C in that opening shuffle.

First verse is G-F-Em, and then go to a C. I play it in here as a Bb/C, but really it should just be a C. That takes you to an F-Eb-Dm before a bridge of Gm-F/A-Bb.

The verse ends with a bang: Eb-Bb-F. You’ll have to watch the video to see how I do that little riff to get in the chorus.

I also address the almighty Toto “Rosanna” solo, which is way beyond my technical ability. However, I’ve got the framework down and describe it in my video. If you like piano tutorials, I hope you’ll come find me on YouTube at youtube.com/ryanweltonmusic because for every cover I do from here on out, I’ll also do a tutorial describing the EASIEST way to learn it. I might not give you the technically perfect way to play it, but you’ll be able to impress folks after five minutes with me — if you can play piano at all.

‘Oliver!,’ ‘Rock of Ages’: Stage productions with Oklahoma flavor

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I wouldn’t consider myself a theatre geek. Instead, I’m somebody who enjoys anything that happens on a stage: plays, musicals, dance, orchestra, concerts, you name it. I’m a musician, and I’ve been the lead in two plays. I suspect I enjoy attention.

When I was a teen, way back when, my friends and I all listened to the “Chess” cast recording, which was basically the second act of ABBA. Seriously. The music was written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.

It was beloved by fans, but the show didn’t succeed in America. There is talk of “Chess” coming back to Broadway next year after a revival in Britain this year. Long story short: that would be awesome, and I think it would do much better this go-round if the adaptations are done well. There is plenty of East-West fodder between Russia and the United States, no?

In my one and only true Broadway experience, I got to see RENT at the Nederlander Theatre in 1997 — and in a bit of foreshadowing, I’m seeing it again in Oklahoma City this upcoming week at the Civic Center Music Hall for its 20th anniversary.

As with Chess, I loved the music of RENT.

But in the past week alone, I added a couple more stage experiences to my collection — a performance of Oliver! at the Sooner Theatre in Norman and Rock of Ages at Lyric Theatre in Oklahoma City. Both were a lot of fun.

Oliver!, the Lionel Bart classic based on Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” was played to a largely empty theater due to a bigger production in town: Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech football. What made this production particularly enjoyable was the local flavor.

(The photo below was taken about 10 minutes before the opening scene. It filled up to about 30 percent by the start of the show.)

oliver

Young Oliver was played by local fifth-grader Callen Stewart, and he was terrific. However, for me, David Mays stole the show as Fagin and understudy Madison Breedlove shined as Nancy. They were fantastic, as was the small but boisterous crowd — even if some of us were checking their phones periodically to catch World Series scores.

Yeah, that was me.

That was me on Wednesday night, too, as we saw “Rock of Ages” in northwest Oklahoma City at the always charming Lyric Theatre. I had seen the movie and didn’t like it aside from Tom Cruise’s sublime performance as Stacee Jaxx.

However, the stage performance was quite a different story. It started off pretty slowly for me. Lonny, played by Gregory Decandia, opened with David Lee Roth’s “Just Like Paradise,” and much of his time was spent early breaking the fourth wall to set up the story.

What the audience figures out quickly is that this is the charm of the production. We’re all part of it.

The story of “Rock of Ages” is about a pair of aspiring performers, Drew and Sherrie, whose romance blossoms under the roof of a local bar called the Bourbon Room. Between Lonny and Dennis Dupree, owner of the Bourbon Room, we’re made to feel like regulars. Side note: Dennis was played by Vince Leseny, but his voice sounded exactly and uncannily just like comedian Kyle Kinane’s.

I kept thinking to myself, “Does Kyle have a side gig?” Even his vocal mannerisms were the same.

We see it all from the moment Drew refers to Sherrie as “a friend” to the moment she unwisely takes up with Stacee Jaxx in the bathroom. If you remember Cruise in the movie, Jaxx is an over-confident lead-singer type who thinks he can get every girl with the snap of a finger.

And he usually can.

Sherrie is played by the young, sweet Julianne Hough in the movie, but Lauren Urso shined as the perky blonde on stage. However, for my money, nobody outshined OCU student and Albuquerque native Derrick Medrano as Drew.

I don’t know if Director Ashley Wells knows just how well she nailed the casting, but she couldn’t have picked a better male lead for this production. Medrano looked like every aspiring 1980s rock-n-roll lead singer that I ever saw and had the vocal chops to handle everything from Dee Snider to Steve Perry with soulful aplomb.

rock-of-ages

All in all, this entire cast and production were terrific, and there were small touches evident throughout the theatre — from bras hanging atop the theatre railing to the merchants outside the main theater in costume, holding their lit lighters high in the air.

Just a reminder of how much talent resides right here in Oklahoma.

 

Yacht Rock Original: “Everybody’s Girl”

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I’ve loved all-things yacht rock before the genre even had a name. Christopher Cross, Toto, Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Hall & Oates: love all of it.

And after 20 years I finally have a classification for all the music I write. Well, that and smooth jazz.

Here’s my latest. It’s a tune about a girl who is the ultimate people-pleaser. She’s “Everybody’s Girl.”

 

Oh, if you dig the song, please come subscribe to my YouTube channel. I post all sorts of stuff out there but try to keep it to all-thing smooooooth. My channel is YouTube.com/soonerryan2000

Lyrics below:

EVERYBODY’S GIRL (a yacht rock original) c. 2017, Ryan Welton

Verse 1: You talk about us, you never stop I can tell: my ears are ringing

You’re chirping here and you’re buzzing there I’d much rather hear birds singing

But if everybody talks, then nobody listens

To the words they say

Maybe I’d have a fightin’ chance some other way

 

Verse 2: I’ll meet you down at the club tonight

You can tell the boys you’re single

Wear that black dress that’s extra tight

I’ll observe you while you mingle

Pour me a whiskey

Hell, make it a double

Dance the night away

But I can’t pretend to be at ease while you’re at play

 

CHORUS: She’s everybody’s girl (everybody’s)

If you can be OK with her as everybody’s girl

Then go ahead and step inside her crazy, crazy world

There’s few who can survive it for long

Everybody’s girl

 

Verse 3: She looks at me but she dreams of him

That’s a constant game she’s playin’

She never says what she really means

Unless she punctuates, “Just sayin'”

Call her a phony

Or just a pretender

You can call me a fool

The girl plays with minds like she plays with hearts: no rules

CHORUS INTERLUDE CHORUS 2x

Cover & Lyrics: The secret to playing Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne”

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Last week, I got to see the legendary Steely Dan although I certainly, remorsefully didn’t ever get to see Walter Becker. I wrote about the gig at the River Spirit Casino in Tulsa, too. If you haven’t been to River Spirit for a show, I highly, highly recommend it.

Easy find. Easy parking. Awesome staff. Coffee shop open after the show.

If you read that post, you know that Donald Fagen and company did “Kid Charlemagne” as their encore. “Kid” is my favorite ‘Dan’ song of all time. It mixes rock with jazz and his wonderful on guitar as it is on keys, kind of a perfect blend of Becker and Fagen.

So, this weekend I decided to cover it. Show me a little grace on this one; I worked it up in 30 minutes and memorized most of the words. The secret to playing this tune is the beginning. You can’t just hammer a C7 and call it good. In the right hand, it needs to be an Eb, E and Bb — three notes with a C bass.

See also: Ryan Welton’s YouTube channel filled with original songs, comedy tunes, smooth jazz and video randomness

Here are the lyrics for you to follow along:

While the music played, you worked by candlelight
Those San Francisco nights
You were the best in town
Just by chance you crossed the diamond with the pearl

You turned it on the world
That’s when you turned the world around
(Did you feel like Jesus?)
Did you realize
That you were a champion in their eyes?

On the hill the stuff was laced with kerosene
But yours was kitchen-clean
Everyone stopped to stare at your technicolor motor home

Every A-Frame had your number on the wall
You must have had it all
You’d go to L.A. on a dare and you’d go it alone
(Could you live forever?)
Could you see the day?
Could you feel your whole world fall apart and fade away?

Now your patrons have all left you in the red
Your low-rent friends are dead
This life can be very strange
All those day-glo freaks who used to paint the face

They’ve joined the human race
Some things will never change
(Son, you were mistaken)
You are obsolete
Look at all the white men on the street

Clean this mess up else we’ll all end up in jail
Those test-tubes and the scale
Just get it all out of here

Is there gas in the car?
Yes, there’s gas in the car
I think the people down the hall know who you are

‘Cause the man is wise
You are still an outlaw in their eyes

Review: Steely Dan’s Tulsa show a party for Walter, total fan delight

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On a night when country star Jason Aldean got all the headlines for playing in Tulsa, his first gig since the horrific Las Vegas shooting a week and change earlier, Steely Dan was also in the city, only a month and nine days removed from the death of its co-founder, Walter Becker.

In essence, Steely Dan these days is Donald Fagen with a big band of sorts. Even before Fagen took the stage, these cats entertained the River Spirit Casino crowd with the theme from “Inspector Gadget.” You could have given me a billion guesses, and I wouldn’t have come up with that one for an opener.

The band was comprised of a baritone sax player, a guy on tenor and alto, a trumpet player and a trombonist. You had a lead guitarist and bass guitarist, and there was a piano player. Three female singers made up the “Danettes,” and there was Fagen himself on Rhodes. Most of my own playing is done on a more electric piano sound precisely because of Donald Fagen, who oddly enough is looking more and more like Ray Charles every day, with back-and-forth head movement and sunglasses on stage that make him look blind.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention the drummer yet. His name is Keith Carlock, and he plays for Steely Dan and Sting and might be the best drummer I’ve ever seen live. He was easily the highlight of the hired help, if you’re askin’ me. Carlock is so good that he warranted a drum solo within the first three songs, and he received high praise from Fagen, who called him one of the “greatest drummers of our time.”

But everybody at this show knew who was missing, and that was Walter. Fagen acknowledged it early, although he did so without much ado, adding that “life goes on,” a stoic acknowledgment from the man who met his music partner 50 years ago this year at Bard College. It was a stoicism that shows up a ton in Steely Dan music, but it wasn’t without sentimentality either as they played a Becker-penned “Book of Liars,” from the 1995 live album “Alive in America” with family pics from Becker displayed on the big screen.

Fagen told an adoring crowd that he did and would forever miss “his pal.”

steely-dan-1

Fagen didn’t trot out all the hits with this bunch on this night. Notably missing were “Do It Again,” “Deacon Blues,” “FM,” “Bad Sneakers,” “Babylon Sisters,” “Any Major Dude” and anything from “Two Against Nature” or “Everything Must Go.” Most of the focus was on Aja, with the title track, “Black Cow,” “Peg” and “Josie.”

As Fagen walked to the stage upon the end of “Inspector Gadget,” (feels weird to type those words) the band broke into “Black Cow” and followed it up with “Black Friday” before moving into Aja. The one solo track that Fagen did wasn’t the hit, “IGY,” it was “New Frontier,” an equally delightful song from the brilliant “Nightfly” record from 1982. God bless, what a great album that was.

Steely Dan played “Hey Nineteen,” “Time Out of Mind” (their final Top 40 hit), “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” (their biggest chart hit), “Dirty Work” (with the Danettes on vocals instead of David Palmer, an original vocalist with the group) and “My Old School” before closing with “Reelin’ In The Years” from the wonderful “Can’t Buy A Thrill.” Side note: I would have loved to hear them do “Brooklyn” and “Midnight Cruiser” from that same record.

However, it wasn’t meant to be — and that seemingly included omitting huge hit, “Do It Again,” and fan favorite “Kid Charlemagne,” until we realized that Steely Dan’s departure from the Tulsa stage would only be temporary. There would be an encore, and I was resigned to it being “Do It Again,” a perfectly acceptable song but just nowhere as good as “Kid Charlemagne.” I personally consider “Kid Charlemagne” to be the best song they ever did.

Read also: The secret to covering Kid Charlemagne

And then the first notes of the encore hit, and we knew this Steely Dan show was for the hardcore fans. Fagen and company closed with a killer rendition of “Kid Charlemagne,” complete with stellar guitar work from Jon Herington, who’s been with the group since the mid-80s. The original guitar work on that track, by the way, was from guitar legend Larry Carlton.

I can’t speak for anybody else, but when Walter Becker died, it immediately made me incredibly remorseful that I hadn’t seen them together, just as I hadn’t seen lots of folks over the years. This show became a priority for me, especially to see Fagen, whose solo work I knew before I was even aware of Steely Dan. As a 12-year-old Oklahoma boy with a transistor radio, “IGY” was a staple of early-80s pop radio, and his sound and style became a major influence on my music, too, moreso as I get older than ever before.

Long live Steely Dan.

(If you’re not familiar with “Kid Charlemagne,” here it is live, complete with Michael McDonald, who I’ll be seeing in Tulsa next month. Much of this band, however, is part of the crew that played in Tulsa last night including Carlock and Herington and even the Danettes.)

And last but not least, I put together my own cover version of “Kid Charlemagne,” posted to my YouTube channel at youtube.com/soonerryan2000. Hope you’ll give it a look sometime!

R.I.P. Tom Petty: The 5 Petty songs I’m listening to over and over

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Like many children of the 80s, struck again by the loss of one of our musical heroes, I’m up late on a Wednesday night listening to Tom Petty. Whenever somebody of Petty’s magnitude dies, I tend to put a Top 5 together, but what I discovered was that the Top 5 I cobbled together off the top of my head wasn’t really my favorite Tom Petty Top 5.

These are.

And I loved ’em all.

5. “American Girl”

Petty always had a bit of a punk streak, but this song seemed to be a cross between punk and the 1950s. And that keyboard part from the great Benmont Tench makes the whole thing.

4. “Into The Great Wide Open”

Tom Petty wasn’t just a world-class musician; he was a tremendous lyricist. My buddies and I in college loved this song.

Eddie waited till he finished high school

He went to Hollywood, got a tattoo

He met a girl out there with a tattoo too

The future was wide open

3. “Don’t Do Me Like That”

As a piano guy, this song does it for me every time. If I remember the story right, Petty wrote this song for somebody else but then decided to keep it for himself.

2. “I Won’t Back Down”

Tom Petty was nothing if not hard-headed and rebellious, and God love him for it. The lyric, “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down” is a masterpiece.

1. “Runnin’ Down A Dream”

Again, I point not to the music, which is fantastic with the driving beat, the guitar work toward the end of the song — but to the lyrics. Check this verse out:

It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down

I had the radio on, I was drivin’

Trees flew by, me and Del were singin’ little Runaway

I was flyin’

The man was an artist, and of all people, he reminds me of Prince the most. The southern rock-n-roll Prince. Tom Petty was highly protective of his craft. He had a lofty sense of righteousness, especially within a corporate music industry. And the people who loved his music revered it.

Photo of Petty is courtesy of Harmony Gerber – Los Angeles, USA, on Flickr (Creative Commons license). Here’s a link to his page:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/photo-grafitti/

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