Tom Petty Shared What He Found ‘Unforgivable’ About Modern Society

TL;DR:

  • Tom Petty apologized for using the Confederate flag as a promotional tool.
  • Tom Petty believed people were making some societal problems worse.
  • The singer made his beliefs clear on more than one occasion.
Tom Petty wears a black and white striped jacket and sits on a couch.
Tom Petty | Michael Putland/Getty Images

Years after using the Confederate flag as a promotional tool for his album Southern Accents, Tom Petty apologized for the choice. In an essay, he explained the change in thinking that spurred the apology. He also shared his thoughts on societal problems in general. He voiced his frustration at inequality and the needless creation of further issues. 

Tom Petty apologized for using the Confederate flag as a promotional tour

In the 1980s, Petty, who was from Florida, released the album Southern Accents. His idea was to write an album about the South, and the band used the Confederate flag as a marketing tool to promote the record. Petty said that he grew to regret the choice.

“It began as a concept record about the South, but the concept part slipped away probably 70 percent or so into the album. I just let it go, but the Confederate flag became part of the marketing for the tour,” he said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “I wish I had given it more thought. It was a downright stupid thing to do.”

During one concert, Petty told the crowd that the use of the flag was to illustrate a character and that he didn’t want to see people bringing the flag to shows. 

“It got a mixed reaction. There were some boos and some cheers,” he explained. “But honestly, it’s a little amazing to me because I never saw one again after that speech in that one town. Fortunately, that went away, but it left me feeling stupid. That’s the word I can use. I felt stupid. If I had just been a little more observant about things going on around me, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Tom Petty believed people were worsening society’s problems

In the same statement, Petty addressed some broader issues. 

“Beyond the flag issue, we’re living in a time that I never thought we’d see,” he said. “The way we’re losing Black men and citizens in general is horrific. What’s going on in society is unforgivable. As a country, we should be more concerned with why the police are getting away with targeting Black men and killing them for no reason. That’s a bigger issue than the flag.”

He believed people would look back on this time period with disgust.

“Years from now, people will look back on today and say, ‘You mean we privatized the prisons so there’s no profit unless the prison is full?'” he said. “You’d think someone in kindergarten could figure out how stupid that is. We’re creating so many of our own problems.”

He used his platform to promote various causes

Over the course of his music career, Petty championed a number of different causes. Along with the Heartbreakers, he performed at the No Nukes concert in 1979, and several of his songs had anti-war themes.

During his final tour in 2017, Petty played “American Girl” as his encore. Per Page Six, as the band played the song, they lit the screen with an image of transgender celebrity Alexis Arquette, who died of AIDS-related complications in 2016. For many fans, this was a clear stance in support of trans rights.

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