Having grown up in northern Florida, Tom Petty had a distinctly narrow view of America—something that is apparent in his album, Southern Accents. In this interview, author Michael Washburn analyzes these songs and Petty himself, commenting on the prevailing racial prejudices that still exist in the south today. Covering everything from 80’s rock ‘n’ roll to white nationalism, this episode discusses a music legend while also revealing some of the vital southern culture that he was misconstruing.
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Michael Washburn is the director of programs at The New York Council for the Humanities and a writer, whose work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and Bookforum. He is the author of Tom Petty’s Southern Accents, which was published as a part of our 33 1/3 series.