The world was shocked to lose Tom Petty suddenly and unexpectedly two years ago today, on October 2nd, 2017. Having just completed a massive 40th anniversary tour with his long-time band, The Heartbreakers – the last show of the tour took place at the Hollywood Bowl on September 25th, 2017, only one week before the singer’s tragic passing – the sad and stunning news prompted an immediate and widespread wave of tributes from fans and peers around the world.
Tom Petty was one of the best-selling music artists of all time, but his legacy extends far beyond such a measure when you consider his significance in the history of rock and roll. Petty built a bridge between the past and present; he was much a Beatles fanatic as he was an heir to American Southern rock. Lyrically, his music defined the every day with poetic wonderment, resonating in so many corners as he touched on universal themes that transcended time and place. By connecting all these different elements to the new wave sounds of the 80s, Petty managed to write songs that were melodic, gritty, catchy and tough; there was something for everyone wrapped up in his deceptively simple songs.
Tom Petty | “Free Fallin'” [Official Music Video]
This ability to connect the different realms of rock is personified by Tom Petty’s place in the Traveling Wilburys. Alongside George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Jeff Lyne, Petty was the glue that bound these artists from differing corners of the rock genre together, forming a sound that more or less defined ‘classic rock’ moving forward.
The Traveling Wilburys | “End Of The Line” [Official Video]
In this interview from 1989, Tom Petty explains to Molly Meldrum on Australia’s Countdown, how the supergroup was formed, almost accidentally, in Bob Dylan’s garage without pretence or planning.
Tom Petty Interview 1989 | Countdown [With Molly Meldrum]
There was a purity and honesty that made Tom Petty captivating and even almost outshone his phenomenal talent. To call him a prolific songwriter would be an understatement, but in testament to his truly humble nature, Petty was the first person to acknowledge that there was an element of his work that he couldn’t entirely take credit for, stating in an interview: “There’s some kind of actual magic going on there. Sometimes a song can come to you so fast that you’re suspicious of where it came from.”
New waver, Heartbreaker, Wilbury, free fallin' solo star, classic-rock elder statesman; Tom Petty forever changed the course of rock 'n' roll with his chiming guitars and instantly catchy, sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs choruses. His songwriting transcended generation and genre to leave an indelible mark on modern rock music – one that will undoubtedly be resounding for decades to come. Remember the life and legacy of a legend of rock and roll with This Is Tom Petty on Spotify:
Listen to the Tom Petty Essentials on Apple Music: