Jason Aldean took to the SNL stage Saturday night to pay an emotional tribute to the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, as well as the death of Tom Petty. Instead of opening up the show with the usual political comedy sketch such as Alec Baldwin portraying Trump’s verbal faux pas in Puerto Rico, the mood was somber, musically acknowledging the national tragedy, yet bringing along a hope of peace and “unbreakable” unity.
Before performing, the Georgia-born Aldean, who was on the very Las Vegas stage of the Route 91 Harvest country music festival when the shootings occurred, said a few words of unity before the band performed. Aldean’s heartfelt monologue paid recognition to each of the victims of the shooting. There were 58 killed, and over 500 wounded, all concert goers attending the festival.
Aldean then went on to include all of America, who is heartbroken by this unfathomable tragedy. He ended his monologue with a message of strength and unity, further uniting America by calling the American spirit “unbreakable.”
“This week, we witnessed one of the worst tragedies in American history. Like everyone, I’m struggling to understand what happened that night and how to pick up the pieces and start to heal. So many people are hurting. There are children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends. They’re all part of our family. So I want to say to them, we hurt for you and we hurt with you. But you can be sure that we’re going to walk through these tough times together, every step of the way. Because when America is at its best, our bond and our spirit — it’s unbreakable.”
Then, Aldean and his band broke into Tom Petty’s defiant song, “I Won’t Back Down,” both a unifying song of strength as well as a musical tribute to Tom Petty, who at 66, died earlier in the week of a cardiac arrest.
This is not the first time Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” became a musical symbol of defiance and strength in America.
“I Won’t Back Down” first appeared on the Full Moon Fever album, Petty’s first solo album, despite the Heartbreakers all performing on the album. Released in 1989, Petty’s song “I Won’t Back Down” was originally considered a plain-speaking dialogue of defiance and determination.
The song was co-written by Petty and the multi-talented lead singer, songwriter, and composer from Electric Light Orchestra, Jeff Lynne. Petty and Lynne, were also members of the Traveling Wilburys, along with George Harrison, who sings background vocals on “I Won’t Back Down,” Bob Dylan, and Roy Orbison.
After 9/11, “I Won’t Back Down” took on an even more powerful role in American music. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, as well as other performers like Bruce Springsteen, paid tribute to the victims of terrorism in the bipartisan “America: A Tribute to Heroes.” The band appeared, performing an ever-defiant and strong version of “I Won’t Back Down.”
“No, I’ll stand my ground
Won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground”
The New York Daily News reported on the George Clooney-organized event that made over $150 million dollars for the United Way. The Peabody Award-winning show was watched by 60 million people, in 210 countries, and the paper reminded readers that although there were many outstanding and meaningful performances on this heartfelt show, it was Petty and Lynne’s lyrics that stood out.
“But it was ‘I Won’t Back Down,’ with its haunting lyrics about perseverence and resistance, that found its way onto the airwaves around the grieving country.”
Jason Aldean could have performed any number of songs, whether Tom Petty’s or his own, to pay musical tribute to those who were tragically killed in Las Vegas. “I Won’t Back Down” continues to be the song that embodies the American mettle and spirit, and Aldean performed it beautifully on the Saturday Night Live stage.
What are your thoughts about Jason Aldean’s performance of Tom Petty’s song “I Won’t Back Down” on the SNL stage? Did you see the performance? Please share your feelings about this below.
[Featured Image by Rick Diamond/Getty Images]