Brian Olsen with Original Tom Petty

Artists Brian Olsen and Tom Petty Remind Us To Live Life to the Fullest!

Tom Petty and Brian Olsen are two of my artists.  January January 13, 2020, Artist Brian Olsen passed away — the world lost an artist. His family lost a son and brother. His friends, of which I count myself, lost a dear companion. I recently share some road stories about my time with Brian. But this morning, I realized I had a bit more to say. 

This morning, Mark, Brian’s brother-in-law, reached out to me. He had read my article before hopping in his car. A moment later, he got in the car, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s song, “Between Two Worlds,” came on.

Mark Tom Petty on the Car Stereo

Long After Dark

It’s an odd song, even for XM, because it was never a radio song. It was on the band’s album, Long After Dark. Their 5th album in about as many years.

The most popular song from that album was written by guitarist Mike Campbell. “You Got Lucky.” The music sounds like an Ennio Morricone Sergio Leone film score had a baby with a groupie! Ennio also passed away in 2020, after living to be 92 and completing more than 400 film scores. In the end, the gunslinging sound of the song was not a band favorite; but fans love it. It was rarely played live until much later in their career.

You can’t blame anyone for ignoring Long After Dark. They were still listening to the band’s previous album, Damn the Torpedos. That album is practically a greatest hits album. Ultimately going double platinum in Canada and Triple Platinum in the US.

The penultimate song on Long After Dark is Between Two Worlds. For me, the title conjures feelings of loss and spirituality. But that’s the funny thing about song titles. They are not always what they seem. The song appears to be about a rockstar’s struggle between life at home and the road’s temptations.

Things Aren't Always What They Seem

The last song on the album drove me to write a coda to my other article. It’s called A Wasted Life. Again, with the misleading song titles. This one sounds like it setting you up for a painful journey — on the last track, no less!

But that’s the genius of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. They would set you up to believe one thing, only to reveal something entirely different. Brian’s art did the same thing. Audiences would swear they knew what was coming, only to discover that they were once again tricked once he flipped the canvas over.

He did this with portraits of Bono, Martin Luther King, and more. My favorite was John Lennon. Using the song, A Day in a Life, as the finale, he would spin the canvas to reveal most of what he had painted was meant to distract. Finishing a perfect portrait of Lennon in less than a minute. 

The First Promo Video I ever Created with Brian.

Our skills were both improving in November 2004. But every time I look back at this video, it reminds me of all that was possible.

No Life is Wasted if it is Lived Fully!

The song A Wasted Life is a call to life. To live to the fullest. Something Brian encouraged his friends and audiences to do. The lyrics are a declaration of love. They are from someone who can see the pain that someone else is going through. A desire to climb just a little higher.  

A Wasted Life 

— Lyrics by Thomas Earl Petty 

Don’t have a wasted life

I know you have to feel a little used up 

And no one can give you enough 

Baby hold on tight

Don’t have a wasted life 

I love you too much 

Don’t have a wasted life 

I love you too much

They give it to you from the time you’re born 

You keep tryin’ to make one more score 

Baby it’s alright 

You gotta stand and fight 

So when you’re lonely and you feel let down 

You can call me I’ll come around 

And treat you nice 

Don’t have a wasted life 

I love you too much uh, uh, uh, don’t have a wasted life”

GO LIVE!

Brian was driven. He had always had a new plan. But like many of us, when his goals went unrealized, he could feel down. Even when some dreams were realized, he held himself to a high standard. Wanting and knowing he could reach higher and do more. I will forever be grateful for the inspiration that he unknowingly bestowed upon my daughter, Sophia.

It can be challenging to look at someone from the outside in. Someone seemingly so full of life, that seems to have it all. Only to realize they, too, are human. They may appear successful, but are they happy?

It breaks my heart to think of Brian not flipping meeting me at the airport and flipping me off, with a big smile on his face. Calling me with a joke that I couldn’t, or at least shouldn’t repeat in writing. Or sending me a text calling me some foul name, just to get my attention, before asking for help on his latest project.

To everyone reading this, GO LIVE! Revel in your successes and let go of any harsh self-criticism. To Brian, I hope with all of my heart, you are happy somewhere in the universe. Know, you didn’t live a wasted life; you just left us too soon.

I’ll sign off as we did at the end of each trip. Love you, Buddy! You don’t have to say it back. But if you could send a cloud in the form of a middle finger, I’d really appreciate it!

Brian Olsen - His Art in Action!

Photos from the Brian Olsen Vault.

Most from the incredible Emily Griffith! A few are from my personal collection.

You can read more about some of our adventures together here.

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