Tom Petty passed away last night at 8:40 SL time (PDT), seven or eight hours after the news was reporting his death, seven or eight hours after social media exploded with condolences and remembrances for an artist passed.
So what happened?
Tom Petty was found in his home in cardiac arrest yesterday morning. Resuscitative measures were performed and Tom wound up at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, on life support. Yesterday afternoon, his family made the hard decision to remove him from life support. It was that one fact yesterday afternoon that lead the media to report that he had passed. However, as often happens in these cases, the removal of life support did not result in Petty expiring immediately. As he lay in his hospital bed, still alive, the media was reporting his death.
Our rock heroes are often larger than life to us and it is easy to forget, amongst the media hype surrounding something like this, that there are real people and families suffering. The media can often exacerbate this as is evident from this Instagram post by Tom’s daughter, Annakim Violette, during the height of the debacle…
“dadlivesmatteronelove@rollingstone my dad is not dead yet but your fucking magazine is ⚡️⚡️⚡️your slime😵 has been pieces of tabloid dog shit. You put the worst artists on your covers do zero research. How dare you report that my father has died just to get press because your articles and photos are so dated. I will fucking shit down your throat and your family's . Try not being a trump vibe. This is my father not a celebrity. An artist and human being. Fuck u”
We can certainly understand her pain and anger.
When I heard the erroneous news that he had passed yesterday, I was deeply saddened and began to weep. As that began to subside, I learned that he might not be dead. Then I learned that he still lived and I found myself on a roller coaster of emotions. I can’t begin to imagine what his family went through yesterday.
My sincerest condolences to the Petty family.
Let us move forward. When I do these pieces they are normally retrospects, remembering all of the wonderful times and accomplishments we attribute to the artist. Let us look at Tom Petty in that regard.
He was one of so many artists of my generation who saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and knew that was what they wanted to be. One of his early guitar teachers was Don Felder, who would later gain fame as the lead guitarist for the Eagles. He not only had the natural talent, he also had an equally talented instructor.
He and some buddies formed a band called the “Epics,” but they soon evolved into a band called “Mudcrutch.” They released one single in 1974, “Depot Street,” which I’ll play during my set tomorrow. Eventually, Tom and a couple members of Mudcrutch formed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Their self-titled debut album was released in 1976 and didn’t fare so well in America but did much better in the United Kingdom. Their second album, “You’re Gonna Get It!” finally charted, reaching #23. After that, there was no looking back. They would release eleven more albums for a total of thirteen, the last in 2014. That album was Hypnotic Eye and it charted at #1 on the Billboard charts. They went out on top!
That isn’t even the complete story. Through the years, Tom Petty also released three solo albums without the Heartbreakers, each one charting in the top ten! The most recent was in 2006 when his album, Highway Companion, reached #4.
From 1988 to 1990, he was a member of famed super-group, the Traveling Wilburys, with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynn (of ELO) and George Harrison (of the Beatles). They released two albums and had several big hits.
In 2008, he reformed Mudcrutch with several of the original members and they released a self-titled album. The album did well and charted at #8. EVERYTHING Tom Petty touched (read recorded) turned to GOLD… Literally! Mudcrutch would reform one last time and released an album, simply called “2,” in 2016. It would be Petty’s last recording.
He also had many collaborative efforts, recording songs with other artists including Bob Dylan, Hank Williams Jr., Roger McGuinn (of the Byrds), Eric Clapton, Carl Perkins, Billy Idol and Joni Mitchell to name a few. However, his most famous was probably with Stevie Nicks, which resulted in the hit, Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.
Tom Petty was one of the Greats!
Whenever I think of him, my first thoughts go back to a video he made back in 1985 for his hit song, Don’t Come Around Here No More. The video portrays the song as a psychedelic romp through Alice in Wonderland and Petty plays the part of a psychedelic Mad Hatter with a giant cup of tea as he sings the song. The video won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Visual Effects.
This morning my heart was broken once again as I came to terms with Tom Petty’s death for a second time. While I had held out some hope for a recovery, knowing what I do about cases like this, I was not in the least bit surprised to wake up to the news. This morning, his official webpage confirmed it with the screen shot below.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a couple of months after September 11, 2001. In the aftermath of the tragedy, I Won’t Back Down became a rallying song for the American people. He has been such a fixture in our lives and culture.
For some reason this death has really hit me hard, harder than most ever do. Maybe it was all the confusion; I don’t know. A five song mini-set during my show tomorrow just doesn’t seem to cut it. I will be dedicating the entire set to Tom Petty. Join me at AWT from 2-4 PM SL time on Wednesday, October 4, as we remember this musical great.
“Well I know what's right;
I got just one life,
In a world that keeps on pushin' me around,
But I'll stand my ground and I won't back down.”