On the morning of October 2nd, 2017, legendary rocker Tom Petty was found unconscious and suffering from cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu, California. He was then transported to the UCLA Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 8:40 P.M. that evening.
Petty became attracted to the "rock and roll" scene after meeting Elvis Presley at the age of 10, and later visiting his uncle on the set of Presley’s film, "Follow That Dream". He instantly became enamored with Presley and his music, later purchasing a collection of 45s by Presley.
"Rock and roll" groups during the 1960s also made a contribution to Petty’s desire to become a musician and be in a band of his own. Petty describes the moment he saw The Beatles appear on The Ed Sullivan Show.
He knew he wanted to form his own group, and he discovered the way to do that through them. “The minute I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show”, he said, “there was the way out. There was the way to do it. You get your friends and you're a self-contained unit. And you make the music...I really saw in the Beatles that here's something I could do. I knew I could do it.”
Petty had also stated similar credits to The Rolling Stones, showing that “he and musicians like him could make it in rock and roll.”
With a career spanning over 40 years, Petty was able to form his own group, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, in 1976. The band produced several well-known classics, such as "Breakdown", "American Girl", "Listen To Her Heart", and "Runnin’ Down A Dream". His solo career consisted of the hits "Free Fallin’" and "I Won’t Back Down", though it is known that several Heartbreakers members contributed to those songs.
The band toured together for several decades, just finishing up their 40th-anniversary tour on September 25th, 2017 at The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California. This performance is now recognized as Petty’s last stage appearance before his death last Monday.
My initial reaction to Petty’s death, of course, was grief, like many others. Although you could never have called me a Tom Petty super-fan, I had a deep appreciation for the music he put out and I enjoyed listening to him and the Heartbreakers whenever I could.
His death has followed many other legends over the past year and a half, such as David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey, George Michael, and many other notable names. This pattern surely isn’t an enjoyable one to see continuing, and I’m not looking forward to whoever is next.
2016 left us in sorrow with one celebrity death after another. Continuing on into 2017, we have experienced this with Jerry Lewis, Chris Cornell, and Chester Bennington. Seeing these legends leave us so soon was distressing, to say the least, and Tom Petty's recent death topped it off. It's painful having to see Petty and other beloved stars go, especially if they have been a significant part of our lives for many years.
I know the feeling and believe me, I'd rather not experience it any further.
Tom Petty’s legacy will certainly live on for many generations to come, and I know we'll do our best to keep it alive.
Rest in peace Mr. Petty, we will miss you greatly.