Tom Petty on Past Confederate Flag Use: ‘It Was Downright Stupid’
South Carolina’s decision to lower the Confederate flag on their statehouse has caused a wide range of reactions in the rock community. While many acts are cheering the decision of the South Carolina legislature, some acts are continuing to sell Confederate flag merchandise and rockers like Kid Rock remain defiant. “Isn’t Kid Rock from the Midwest?” Tom Petty asks with a chuckle. “I think they were on the other side of the Civil War.”
Petty, who featured the Confederate flag prominently onstage during his Southern Accents tour in 1985, spoke to Rolling Stone hours after the flag was taken down to express remorse for his actions.
The Confederate flag was the wallpaper of the South when I was a kid growing up in Gainesville, Florida. I always knew it had to do with the Civil War, but the South had adopted it as its logo. I was pretty ignorant of what it actually meant. It was on a flagpole in front of the courthouse and I often saw it in Western movies. I just honestly didn’t give it much thought, though I should have.
In 1985, I released an album called Southern Accents. 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. I wish I had given it more thought. It was a downright stupid thing to do.
It happened because I had one song on the album called “Rebels.” It’s spoken from the point of view of the character, who talks about the traditions that have been handed down from family to family for so long that he almost feels guilty about the war. He still blames the North for the discomfort of his life, so my thought was the best way to illustrate this character was to use the Confederate flag.
I used it onstage during that song, and I regretted it pretty quickly. When we toured two years later, I noticed people in the audience wearing Confederate flag bandanas and things like that. One night, someone threw one onstage. I stopped everything and gave a speech about it. I said, “Look, this was to illustrate a character. This is not who we are. Having gone through this, I would prefer it if no one would ever bring a Confederate flag to our shows again because this isn’t who we are.”
It got a mixed reaction. There were some boos and some cheers. 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. We did do a live record [Pack Up The Plantation: Live!] and there was a picture inside of us playing in front of one. I went back and had it removed from the record. It took a little time to get done, but it did get done. I still feel bad about it. I’ve just always regretted it. I would never do anything to hurt someone.
Lock Him Up: Team Trump Demands Congress Rush Biden Probes
- BIG MAGA MAD