While on tour to promote his 1985 album Southern Accents, Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers at times performed alongside a Confederate flag; a decision he now says was “downright stupid.”
Aside from his own “stupid” decisions, the “Learning to Fly” singer also says the flag controversy should be settled, because, according to him, the big issue is all the black men being killed by police officers for no reason.
He opened up about both his 1985 tour and his Florida childhood to Rolling Stone this week, in which he called Confederate imagery the “wallpaper of the South.”
“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,” he said.
Petty supports recent decisions by Alabama and South Carolina to remove the banners from state property, saying, “That flag shouldn’t have any part in our government. It shouldn’t represent us in any way. The war is over.”
The flag was used during live performances of the track “Rebels” for the Southern Accents tour, which Petty wrote from the perspective of a bitter Southerner.
Watch a Confederate flag absent performance of “Rebels” below:
Now 64 and full of apologies, Petty views the Army of Northern Virginia battle flag as a symbol of hate and/or ignorance, and has a message for those who still support it: don’t come around here no more.
Two years after the release of Southern Accents, a concertgoer through a flag onstage, which prompted Petty to stop the show.
“I stopped everything and gave a speech about it,” he recalled to Rolling Stone. “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.’”
He later removed an image from the 1985 concert album Pack Up the Plantation: Live because his band was shown playing in front of a Confederate flag, and 30 years later, he is still wrought with guilt.
“I still feel bad about it,” Petty said. “I’ve just always regretted it. I would never do anything to hurt someone.”
Petty then shifted the narrative, and blamed the police for the number of black men being killed across America.
“The way we’re losing black men and citizens in general is horrific. What’s going on in society is unforgivable” he said. “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 said.
To read Tom Petty’s entire Confederate flag remarks, click here.