I've seen/read a lot of retrospectives on the L.A. Riots in the last couple of months (first sparked by the twentieth anniversary, and now following Rodney King’s untimely demise). What they all seem to be missing is a mention of Tom Petty’s truly awful single, “Peace in L.A.”, rush-released as the events unfolded:
The song was reportedly written in one day, released the next, and is evidence that residents of South Central were not the only victims of looting during that time period. Mr. Petty appears to have purloined the melody line from John Lennon’s Cold Turkey, a guitar part from his own Running Down a Dream, and the drums and bass from a Roland drum machine. As to whether the song was an opportunistic attempt by Petty to capitalize on the riots, or a genuine attempt to quell the violence, here’s my take: If Tom Petty really thought he had just written a tune so powerful that upon mere listening it was going to calm the inflamed sense of injustice of the rioters, then he's batshit crazy. On the other hand, if he thought the song was good enough to become some sort of money-making hit, then he's also batshit crazy. So either way, Tom Petty is totally batshit crazy.