Tom Petty was one of my favorite musicians. I loved almost every song he released during his long career. I owned several of his albums, spanning from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.
I heard “Learning to Fly” in the car this morning and was overcome with bittersweet nostalgia that stayed with me all day. 1991 (the year this song was released) was a year that had a lot of personal meaning to me, and this was one of my favorite Tom Petty songs. It’s absolutely surreal to me that 1991 was 27 years ago. It’s sad and a little scary how much faster time passes by as we age.
Tom Petty’s premature death in October 2017 was a great shock. Music like his will never be made again. But he finally got his wings and learned to fly.
I was going to post a different (more recent) song for this week, but my DS, who will be 25 this year, just reminded me that this iconic song is as old as he is. It still sounds as great as it did in 1991. Sorry about this being a day late.
I think Monday’s a day everyone could use a little music, so I decided to start a new regular feature on this blog, Monday Melodies. Each Monday, I will feature one song from the past that I really like and share it with my readers. I’ll give a little background about the song and explain why I like it so much.
This week’s selection is “Walking in Memphis” by singer-songwriter Marc Cohn.
This song was a big hit in 1991 and is the only hit for Marc Cohn. He wrote it after a trip to Memphis, Tennessee in 1985 which proved to be a musical and spiritual awakening for him. Many people think Cohn is a born-again Christian because of the line at the end, “Tell me, are you a Christian, child?” in which he replies, “Ma’am, I am tonight!” This is the song’s iconic line. It grabs your attention and pulls the whole narrative together. But Cohn is and was a New York Jew. He’s describing how he felt the pull of the religious fervor (and many would say the Holy Spirit) surrounding him as he sang “Amazing Grace” with 60 year old gospel singer Muriel Wilkins playing piano. (See the Wikipedia entry for more background.)
I love this song because to me, it’s perfect in nearly every way. Cohn’s voice is powerful and emotional, the lyrics are great, and the production isn’t overdone. It’s a song you don’t forget, and I think that’s why it’s still often heard on the radio, even though it’s 25 years old. It’s timeless. The gospel choir at the end gives me chills every time. The way the song ends reminds me of waking up from a beautiful dream for some reason.