Tom Petty’s Civil War Memory

Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents” is by far my favorite of all his recordings.  It was released in 1985 and was Petty’s first recording since breaking his hand the year before.  It’s beautifully produced and arranged by David Stewart, who is best known for his work with Annie Lennox in the Eurythmics.  The title track is by far my favorite.  Enjoy!

There’s a southern accent, where I come from
The young’uns call it country
The yankees call it dumb
I got my own way of talkin’
But everything is done, with a southern accent
Where I come from

Now that drunk tank in Atlanta’s
Just a motel room to me
Think I might go work Orlando
If them orange groves don’t freeze
I got my own way of workin’
But everything is run, with a southern accent
Where I come from

For just a minute there I was dreaming
For just a minute it was all so real
For just a minute she was standing there, with me

There’s a dream I keep having
Where my mama comes to me
And kneels down over by the window
And says a prayer for me
I got my own way of prayin’
But everyone’s begun
With a sou thern accent
Where I come from

I got my own way of livin’
But everything gets done
With a southern accent
Where I come from

Want some more Petty?  Check out the link to the live video for “Rebels”.

Even before my father’s father
They called us all rebels
While they burned our cornfields
And left our cities leveled
I can still feel the eyes of those blue-bellied devils
Yeah, when I’m walking round at night
Through the concrete and metal, hey, hey, hey

13 responses... add one

Beautiful. Thanks, Kevin, for all of us who have a southern accent where we come from.

I saw Tom Petty last July in Alpharetta, GA. He was truly excellent. Steve Winwood was the opening act and also played some songs with Petty. Petty did ‘Rebels’ and it got a good reaction from the crowd but I wondered how many took real notice of the part you quoted from.

There is a pretty huge Confederate flag used as a backdrop for the stage, too, in the link to the song “Rebels”. I don’t know anything about Tom Petty, so more knowledgable people than I will have to expound upon what it all means, or doesn’t mean. I just know that the song you have featured here, Kevin, “Southern Accents” is truly a beautiful song. Thanks for introducing this reader to it. Sort of ironic, isn’t it, that a yankee carpetbagger guy like you would introduce a Southerner (white Southerner, let’s be clear) to a song about Southerners. Bodes well for the future of the nation. Sherree the Scalawag

PS. The song I was looking for is not by Annie Lennox, but by Alison Moyet. Great old tune called “Love Resurrection”. We all need divine intervention, etc. I start humming it every time I watch the news, lol.

Kevin -

Great song. Having lived in Orlando throughout the 80′s and 90′s, I remember all the worries about freezes. I guess most of the groves were sold off and cut down to make way for more and more housing developments. So sad. One of my other “southern culture” favorites is “Good Ole Boys Like Me” by Don Williams. A bit old school, but hauntingly beautiful to me, anyway. Check it out:

Regards, Paul

You’d have to add Warren Zevon’s “Renegade” as well. Not the greatest video but an incredible live version nonetheless.

Well, while we’re at it…………………… Please make sure you check out the last link, everyone. It is a surprise endorsement. Thanks, Kevin.

Joan Baez: Seven Bridges Road

There are stars
In the Southern sky
Southward as you go
There is moonlight
And moss in the trees
Down the Seven Bridges Road

Now I have loved you like a baby
Like some lonesome child
And I have loved you in a tame way
And I have loved you wild

Sometimes there’s a part of me
Has to turn form here and go
Running like a child from these warm stars
Down the Seven Bridges Road

There are stars in the Southern sky
And if ever you decide
You should go
There is a taste of time sweetened honey
Down the Seven Bridges Road

Ralph Stanley: O, Death

O Death O Death Won’t you spare me over til another year
Well what is this that I can’t see
With ice cold hands takin’ hold of me
Well I am death, none can excel
I’ll open the door to heaven or hell
Whoa, death someone would pray
Could you wait to call me another day
The children prayed, the preacher preached

Time and mercy is out of your reach
I’ll fix your feet til you cant walk
I’ll lock your jaw til you cant talk
I’ll close your eyes so you can’t see
This very air, come and go with me
I’m death I come to take the soul
Leave the body and leave it cold
To draw up the flesh off of the frame
Dirt and worm both have a claim
O, Death
O, Death
Won’t you spare me over til another year
My mother came to my bed
Placed a cold towel upon my head
My head is warm my feet are cold
Death is a-movin upon my soul
Oh, death how you’re treatin’ me
You’ve close my eyes so I can’t see
Well you’re hurtin’ my body
You make me cold
You run my life right outta my soul
Oh death please consider my age
Please don’t take me at this stage
My wealth is all at your command
If you will move your icy hand
Oh the young, the rich or poor
Hunger like me you know
No wealth, no ruin, no silver no gold
Nothing satisfies me but your soul
O, death
O, death
Wont you spare me over til another year
Wont you spare me over til another year
Wont you spare me over til another year


Then there is that point at which the lives of white Southerners and black Southerners intersects. Check out Willie Nelson and Ray Charles singing about earthbound angels. I guess Warren Zevon would be one of them now. I did not realize that he had passed away. Here’s to you, Tom, Warren, Joan, Don, Willie, Ralph, Ray, and our host, Kevin! Sing and blog the real South back home to us.

Correction: Typo. That should read “intersect”. Have a great day, Kevin. Thanks again.

I’m coming to this post a little late, but thought Kevin and others might be interested in another, more recent song by Tom Petty called “Down South.” He sings about going back down South, being dressed like Samuel Clemens (something easy for me to imagine), and he strikes up so many interesting images (to me at least) relating to the mystique of southern culture and identity. Petty’s song here seems to be from the point of view of a transplanted southerner returning back down South one last time, perhaps to take care of a variety of familial obligations and to keep some secrets secret. To me, it feels like an evolution of sorts from the almost defiant themes of southern identity found in “Southern Accents” to something a little more conflicted by the time he writes and performs “Down South.” Everything Petty does in the first song is done with a Southern Accent, of course; by the time he gets to Down South, it’s appears to me his Southern Accent might be more of a performance.

Here’s a link to a live performance of the song:

Maybe I’m thinking too much into this. I’m writing this as a white southerner who has been a longtime fan of Tom Petty. I also feel I should mention that Johnny Cash did a wonderful cover of “Southern Accents” (with Petty himself joining in for the chorus), and this version was done on one of Cash’s recent “American Recording” albums with Rick Rubin producing.

Hi Don. Thanks for sending along the Petty link. I was not familiar with that particular song.

Join the Conversation