I had been browsing through my vinyl collection to refresh my memory on which Pink Floyd records I own when posting the song, “Wish You Were Here” (as those details somehow seemed important at the time). When I had grabbed that bunch of records, the next LP sidled up to them was the 1979 album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Damn the Torpedoes. The album title was a reference to a famous quote by an American civil war admiral, David Farragut, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” and an apparent reference to a breach of contract lawsuit that led to Petty declaring bankruptcy.

That’s the only Tom Petty record I own. 

Yesterday, I was listening to KEXP Seattle. The morning DJ, John Richards, has been playing some fantastic music lately including a whole morning (a week or more ago) of live recordings by many bands whose concerts have been cancelled in response to the global pandemic. Yesterday played “Wildflowers,” a song I’m not even sure I ever heard before. 

KEXP is a station whose tagline (and Richards’ personal Twitter handle) is “You Are Not Alone.” The station is an abiding advocate for mental health, which is an important focus right now with so many people around the world suffering stress. Richards has also been playing a lot of John Prine in the last few days, after the singer’s death from complications of an infection from the virus.

I  love the spirit of KEXP and how they respond to the world, to tough times — and even to just routine correspondence! I wrote to them once, asking what their stand was on paying royalties to musicians since I am one of their supporters, as I’d heard some stations don’t pay fees to musicians for the privilege of playing their songs, and that really bothered me. Their general counsel, Scott, was the person who wrote me back and answered, noting how complicated the matter was. Still, he explained it very well, saying, “Every song we play has two copyrights, one for the composition and one for the sound recording. The US and only a couple other countries (North Korea and Syria, as I recall) fail to require sound recording royalties for over-the-air radio broadcasts. In the US, this is a historical quirk — way back when, the National Association of Broadcasters convinced the Congress that broadcasters were performing a promotional function for the performing artists, and couldn’t afford to pay sound recording royalties. Over the years, many have tried to correct this inequity (e.g., https://www.soundexchange.com/advocacy/reintroduction-fair-play-fair-pay-act/). The real travesty is that, due to reciprocity, US performers are not entitled to sound recording royalties for radio broadcasts overseas, even where such a royalty requirement exists.” He also noted a Congressional solution is needed.

Scott and I wrote back and forth a bit more in a friendly conversation. He even invited me to contact him if ever in the Seattle area, as he would personally tour me around the station. 

Like I said, spirit. That exchange was a year ago last month, but I remember it like it was yesterday because he took the time to see and hear me and to honour my question.

Anyway, Petty’s song fit the mood of the day yesterday, I thought, in terms of Prine’s death, Petty’s 2017 death, and the massive weight that the global pandemic is placing on people.

It made me think of the wildflowers I see at the roadside when cycling (I used to see a lot more when I’d ride trails and suddenly find myself in vast open fields full of them). I miss those glimpses and look forward to seeing them. But I am feeling apprehensive about riding outdoors again until conditions are ideal as I don’t want to crash and take up scarce medical resources during the pandemic response’s demand on our health-care system. But, I’m hopeful about seeing the fields in their colourful summer splendour sometime soon…

“You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worry
You belong somewhere you feel free”

(from “Wildflowers,’ by Tom Petty)

Photo of wildflowers.
Wildflowers in a field in near an industrial area in Point Douglas, Winnipeg, Canada, June 2017. Photo © Steve West.

Today felt like a rough day. I missed being able to be around our family. This morning, I fell when slipping on some ice, hitting my head and hurting my neck and back. Then a bike training ride (done gingerly) through an online app and community had app glitches. Plus, our hot water heater shut off when I was planning to take a deep, hot bath to soothe my muscles (I later restarted, it, yay). And finally, after trying for three days to order through Canadian Tire to get new smoke detectors to replace two I’d just discovered were dated (their website kept crashing from overload), I was able to get some from Home Depot. When I got home from a trip to do “curbside pickup” and told Sweety that the stored closed before I got there, we both just laughed. Sometimes, that’s what you’ve gotta do. And all you can do. And sometimes cry, too… because we miss being up close with our family, all our beloved people.

And, my day was still a hell of a lot better than many, many people’s.

So, we hope. Even if for something as simple and amazingly beautiful as wildflowers.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

And please leave a comment about how you are doing in this current situation. I’d love to hear from you, to hear your story.

Here’s the official audio for the song from the late Tom Petty’s YouTube channel:

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