The beginning of October was a tragedy for many of us. The day after the horrible mass shooting in Las Vegas, we lost one of the most famous American rock artist, Thomas Earl Petty, better known as Tom Petty. Petty was an artist that has moved many people in the world, from those who knew his music well, to those who simply heard of his music.
“Buy me a drink, sing me a song, take me as I come, cause I can’t stay long,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Mary Jane’s Last Dance.
Born in 1950 in Florida, Petty dropped out of highschool at the age of 17 to live his dream as a musician in the band called The Mudcrutch. Once he met Elvis Presley, he became interested in rock and roll music but was really inspired to start a band of his own when he saw The Beatles live at The Ed Sullivan Show. Before The Mudcrutch broke up, Petty played in the band with Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, who he later reunited with in Los Angeles to create the well known band, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers in 1975. The Heartbreakers also included bass player Ron Blair and drummer Stan Lynch.
By the the next year, their first self titled album was released with hit songs like “Breakdown” and “American Girl”. By their third album, Damn the Torpedoes, they created more signature hits like, “Refugee”, “Don’t Do Me Like That”, and “Here Comes My Girl”. In 1988, Tom Petty joined George Harrison in The Traveling Wilburys band with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne. This was considered a supergroup band which earned Petty’s first Grammy award for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal in 1989. The same year, Petty released his first solo album, Full Moon Fever, which produced other great hits like “Free Fallin”, “Runnin’ Down A Dream”, and “I Won’t Back Down.” While always being a part of The Heartbreakers, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers got their own Hollywood star in 1999. By 2003, the whole band went into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
“You belong somewhere you feel free,” Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Wildflowers.
Beginning as a teenager who looked up to The Beatles and later being part of a band, The Traveling Wilburys, with one of The Beatles, Tom Petty became a true rock legend in America. “Listening to Tom Petty was an American experience,” said Michael Weston, a long time fan since The Heartbreakers came out in 1976. Weston is a multi entertainment artist from Los Angeles that met Tom Petty a few times in his life. Working with film, Weston had friends who were close to Tom Petty and got to meet him through them. “I got to meet him in the 80’s”, said Weston, “He is a very humble guy with a disarming approach but his music always had a powerful message that was simplistic.”
Weston started listening to Tom Petty in 1976 when their first album came out. He felt he was able to relate to a lot of the songs.
“He captured the spirit of everyday Americans,” said Weston. During the announcement of the death of Tom Petty, Weston was shocked to hear his “rock and roll uncle” had passed away. “It felt like Tom Petty was a member of the family. It was everyone’s loss. His death was an impact in the rock and roll community and all other branches of rock,” expressed Weston on Petty’s death. Overall, Tom Petty will always be an icon to Weston that can never be replaced.
“Well she was an American girl
Raised on promises
She couldn’t help thinkin’ that there
Was a little more to life
After all it was a great big world
With lots of places to run to,” Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, American Girl.
Lyft driver, Shawn Thomas from Koreatown, noticed many passengers expressing their sadness the Monday they announced the death of Tom Petty. “I’m not the biggest fan of Tom Petty but I always recognized the artist as a great musician,” explained Thomas. Thomas first heard of Petty in middle school when his teacher hyped up the band. All his classmates talked about Petty, so he decided to check out the band himself.
“I feel like he has a unique voice and I like the meaning of his songs. Non-aggressive with a message, like I Won’t Backdown. Stand up for what you feel is right and keep fighting for it,” said Thomas.
Petty’s music had an impact to those who didn’t even listen to him much. Most of his songs can be heard in local radio stations like K-Earth or The Sound. Everytime I listen to those stations, I usually come across Free Fallin or American Girl. Tom Petty has always been known to me as a true American rock band like Canned Heat or America, but more with an 80’s feel. He really did have a lot of well known songs that added to the culture of American rock music. As an artist in the music industry with other rock stars, Petty seemed to be one that stood out with his own character. Runnin’ Down a Dream was a favorite of mine because of the rhythm and the lyrics. It was as if Petty wrote about his life being like a dream with all that he accomplished and did. Petty’s songs and life really reflected what many would call the American dream. Having a vision and manifesting it into reality with a humble dedication and passion for it.
Yeah runnin’ down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads
Runnin’ down a dream,” Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Runnin’ Down A Dream.
It is no surprise many legendary artists have been passing on. Most of them have been around for decades while being the famous artist that they are. Tom Petty was one that will always be appreciated for the music he brought into our lives, and influencing the culture of America and inspiring many with lyrics that speak to our real lives. Petty has truly made a beautiful impact in the time he spent here on Earth. With so much rock music in the world, Petty’s will always be remembered as an original American rock band. Thank you Tom Petty, for the love in your music that you brought into our lives.
“What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing
But under my feet, baby, grass is growing
It’s time to move on, it’s time to get goin,” Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Time To Move On.
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