Tom Petty, a long standing member of rock royalty, used images of the flag during his 1985 tour in support of his album Southern Accents. In an essay he wrote for Rolling Stone magazine, Petty notes that his use of the flag stems from the song "Rebels" which appeared on the aforementioned album. Southern Accents began life as a concept album about the South, and use of the flag was felt to be the best way to represent the mindset of the character. According to Petty, the focus of the album was lost somewhere along the way. The Confederate flag was kept and utilized in the marketing of the tour.
In his comments to Rolling Stone, Petty points to the presence of the image when he was growing up in the American South: "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. " Petty also expresses that he failed to view the flag through another lens, an action he regrets.
After performing in front of the flag, Petty realized that fans were attending shows donning images of the flag. After one was thrown on stage at a show he drew the line. He stopped the shown and expressed to the audience that the flag is not representative of the band and what the band stands for.
Now, on the heels of the decision to remove the flag from in front of the South Carolina State House, Petty reflects on where society is now. He told Rolling Stone:
"Beyond the flag issue, we're living in a time that I never thought we'd see. 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. 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?" You'd think someone in kindergarten could figure out how stupid that is. We're creating so many of our own problems."
One thing is for sure: Tom Petty is still American Rock Awesomeness. Who among us hasn't done something they regret?