In the midst of the Las Vegas shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, it seemed like nothing could get any worse — until I logged onto Twitter. TMZ Live reported that Tom Petty had a heart attack and was being taken to the hospital and probably was not going to make it. I was overcome with a feeling of emptiness as if it was someone I had known well. That whole day I was just looking at Twitter hoping that somehow Tom would pull through and win the fight.
Unfortunately, Tom died that night at the age of 66 surrounded by his family, friends and bandmates.
I remember my 15th birthday was coming up in 2013 and I only had one present on my mind. I wanted to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers live in concert. Just to my luck, he was touring and I got to catch him in Los Angeles. It was a smaller venue show and I was so close to him, I felt like he was singing to me, it was a surreal experience. Tom Petty songs have been the staple of American culture for 40 years and the catalog is extensive.
I remember as I was learning guitar I would put on a Tom Petty song and try to figure out what he was doing. In a way, Tom was the best guitar teacher I ever had. To this day whenever I go to a guitar store and pick up an acoustic I always play “Learning to Fly” first. When I learned to play drums the first thing I learned was the fill in the intro of “Don’t Do Me Like That.” When I learned to play bass all I wanted to figure out was how that walking bass line went in the beginning of “American Girl.” When I learned to play piano all I wanted to play was that opening keyboard riff of “You Got Lucky.” Tom Petty songs have been a staple of my life and he is by far my biggest influence as a musician.
I was lucky enough to see him twice on their 40th-anniversary tour in Napa Valley, CA and Pasadena, CA. I just wish I could have personally thanked him for everything. He was my Beatles.
Thank you, Tom Petty, for everything.