In memory of Tom Petty

Culture Music

Rock and roll legend Tom Petty passed away on the evening of Oct. 2 after suffering a heart attack while at home in Malibu, California. Confusion initially followed CBS’s premature report of Petty’s death, but the tragedy was sadly confirmed later that Monday evening by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Tom Petty, songwriting legend and music icon, passed away on the evening of Oct. 2. Photo by Musicisentropy via Flickr

The cutthroat world of rock and roll always proved to be no match for Tom Petty’s unique voice and ever-growing songwriting flare. His long and illustrious career never subsided to uniformity, and his creations obtained increasing success and longevity. Petty had been triumphantly navigating the music scene since 1976, when Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers debuted their self-titled album, which gained huge popularity in the U.S. and U.K. With the explosive success of singles “Breakdown” and “American Girl,” Petty had started himself a career that would last a lifetime. The group’s later album Damn the Torpedoes, featuring singles “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Refugee,” rapidly went platinum, and their final album of the ‘80s, Long After Dark, garnered recognition from musicians such as Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead, both of whom Petty later toured with.

In 1988, Petty joined The Travelling Wilburys, a musical supergroup created by George Harrison. He sang and played guitar in the band alongside Harrison, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Lynne, until finally deciding to go solo in 1989. Full Moon Fever, Petty’s first solo album, propelled his career with the release of timeless tracks “I Won’t Back Down” and “Free Falling.” The final years of Petty’s life were spent touring, reuniting with The Heartbreakers, and even pursuing a short acting career.

It is always difficult to mourn the loss of someone who you may have never met, but still impacted your life substantially. Four generations have grown up with the magic of Tom Petty’s music, and now those generations can all band together to look back on the icon that taught them to be bold, enjoy the music, and remember that “you belong among the wildflowers . . . you belong somewhere you feel free.”