Runnin’ Down a Dream

Remember that guitar in a museum in Tennessee
And the nameplate on the glass brought back twenty melodies
And the scratches on the face
Told of all the times he fell
Singin’ every story he could tell . . .

At a time when Rock & Roll was split into a dozen competing camps, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came along to put the pieces back together again. From the first note of their first record, they were both grounded in tradition, and completely fresh.

It was as if they had looked at all the possibilities Rock had to offer, and built their music out of only the best parts. Over time each of the Heartbreakers emerged as a songwriter, singer, and record producer.

Each had success outside of the band . . . yet when they came together they put all  their talents behind Petty’s vision. Petty’s idea of Rock & Roll was stubborn and rebellious, but full of idealism. To Petty, Rock held up the chance of living a life of community and creativity, without compromise.

He never backed off that belief.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers made music like the last of the true believers. They gave back to their audience what they took from Rock & Roll themselves . . . the best of everything.

Thanks for all the memories and countless hours of attitude in some of the finest music the world will ever know

Runnin’ Down a Dream is a 4-hour documentary for the ages — spanning Tom Petty’s pursuit of greatness that was fulfilled many times over. I’ve heard him tell of the time he got a birthday card from Johnny Cash, and in it the Man in Black wrote:

You’re a good man to ride the river with

Coming from Cash, is it even possible to have a higher compliment?

When Petty passed away, I was thinking about all the bonding that came from his music. We had some good softball games back in the day, and there was this one friend who’d come racing in with his Rabbit blaring Rebels from Pack of the Plantation.

Several years ago I was catching up with that friend, and he invited me up for a visit. In our next conversation he relayed what he told his wife about me:

Rick’s the most honest guy you’ll ever meet

He said it with such enthusiasm — and it brought a smile to my face to be remembered as such. 

How quickly they forget when their interests are at stake

The sky is pristine blue on my 50th, but I’d feel fantastic even if it were pouring down rain. I walk out to a wall of windows every morning to be engulfed by light.

It’s especially easy to appreciate considering that I was sleeping on a friend’s floor just a few years ago. But even in that tiny space, I was grateful, as I was going somewhere.

After 18 years, I left my comfort zone in Charlotte for a job in California in 2015. When that didn’t pan out, I bounced around the country for a while — building on a series of setbacks along the way. I look back on those times with fondness — so much beauty in the pursuit of possibility.

This time last year, I was buried in debt and unfilled in my job (which was becoming a recurring theme). Now I’m debt-free — with a job I love, money in the bank, passport renewed, and the flexibility to live anywhere.

And my other Passport’s still running strong after 20 years. It’s treated me well.

While crisscrossing the country, my mom operated out of CENTCOM as my co-pilot — providing intel on hotels down the road, and what apartment might be best at the end of it.

With equal enthusiasm, I could tell you about Motel 6 and my delightfully modern apartments (and the joy of collaboration in the hunt).

Turns out that there are a lot of nice motels to be found — and I never would have known that without my journey.

Even in the Houston heat, I left one of the sliding-glass doors open a couple inches open all summer — as the sound of 610 moves me. I loved my peace & quiet all those years in Charlotte, but the streets of San Francisco changed all that.

Now I thrive in the atmosphere of activity — surrounded by light, ever-flowing fresh air, and the hum of the traffic.

All the more fitting because I’m still going somewhere.

I’ve been told that I should to do something special for my 50th. I did.

I wrote this for everyone who played a part in my past. Large or small, you made a difference — and I wanted to thank you for that. While my persistence has always been central to my story, there wouldn’t be much to tell without the influence from those who shaped it.

When you see your ship go sailing
When you feel your heart is breaking
Hold on tight to your dream

It’s a long time to be gone
Time just rolls on and on
When you need a shoulder to cry on
When you get so sick of trying
Hold on tight to your dream

When you get so down that you can’t get up
And you want so much but you’re all out of luck
When you’re so downhearted and misunderstood
Just over and over and over you could . . .

When you see the shadows falling
When you hear that cold wind calling
Hold on tight to your dream . . .

I’ve got a long list of real good reasons
For all the things I’ve done
I’ve got a picture in the back of my mind
Of what I’ve lost and what I’ve won
I’ve survived every situation
Knowing when to freeze and when to run
And regret is just a memory written on my brow
And there’s nothin’ I can do about it now

I’ve got a wild and a restless spirit
I held my price through every deal
I’ve seen the fire of a woman’s scorn
Turn her heart of gold to steel
I’ve got the song of the voice inside me
Set to the rhythm of the wheel
And I’ve been dreamin’ like a child
Since the cradle broke the bow
And there’s nothin’ I can do about it now

Talk about a dream
Try to make it real
You wake up in the night
With a fear so real
You spend your life waiting
For a moment that just don’t come
Well, don’t waste your time waiting

Badlands, you gotta live it everyday
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you’ve gotta pay
Keep pushin’ ’til it’s understood
And these badlands start treating us good