I remember seeing Tom Petty with the Heartbreakers early in his career. I had a chance to see him again years later. There was something unique about the music, that jangly guitar up against Tom’s edgy vocals tinged with some southern drawl. He was exciting to watch and to hear. I loved “Breakdown”, “Refugee”, “Free Fallin”, “American Girl”, the songs he did with Stevie Nicks, the songs he did with The Travelling Wilburys, well that’s only a sample.
Tom Petty came on the scene during the post punk, new wave era of rock and roll, around the same time that U2, The Pretenders and the Talking Heads were also being discovered by music fans. These were powerhouse acts that, when you heard them or saw them in concert, you knew that they had something extra special.
I recently read Warren Zane’s biography about Tom Petty, and got a glimpse of a man who, in many respects, was a simple human being trying to carve out a career, and who just happened to possess an innate musical talent. Sure, Tom had some pretty iconic friends, George Harrison and Bob Dylan, to name a few, and while he gained the respect and admiration of his fellow musicians, he was sometimes so painfully human, publicly dealing with a divorce, a dysfunctional past and drug addiction.
Recently, it looked as if he was in a good place, finishing a tour, in a stable marriage and getting ready to spend more time with his granddaughter. It’s sad to think that his life was cut short too early. For us, we have his music, a library of great songs that we can play at any time. It helps us remember those special moments in life that sometimes only music can conjure up. Aren’t we the lucky ones!