Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Tom Petty said in an interview with Rolling Stone on Tuesday his past use of the Confederate flag on stage and in a 1985 album was a “downright stupid thing to do.”
Petty, who grew up in Gainesville, Fla., described the Confederate flag as the “wallpaper of the South” during his childhood.
The three-time Grammy winner made “Southern Accents” as a concept album about the South, he told Rolling Stone, but the “concept part slipped away probably 70 percent or so into the album.”
“I just let it go, but the Confederate flag became part of the marketing for the tour,” he told the magazine. “I wish I had given it more thought. It was a downright stupid thing to do.”
Petty regretted using the flag onstage for a performance of the song “Rebels” from that album. He later asked fans to stop wearing and bringing Confederate flags to their shows.
Petty said the South Carolina legislature made the “right decision” to lower the flag from the statehouse grounds.
“That flag shouldn’t have any part in our government. It shouldn’t represent us in any way,” Petty said. “The war is over.”
The flag’s removal should not be the end of the conversation, Petty said.
“The way we’re losing black men and citizens in general is horrific,” he said. “What’s going on in society is unforgivable. 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.”
The MTV documentary about the album “Southern Accents” opens with Petty wearing a hat with a Confederate flag.