- Ben Province
Tom Petty: Remembering an Icon
Courtesy: Larry Philpot
Tom Petty was rushed to the hospital in cardiac arrest on Oct. 1 after being found in his Malibu, Calif. residence not breathing and unconscious. The following night, he passed away. He was 66-years-old.
It's always sad when a beloved celebrity dies. But this is different. Petty wasn't just any famous rock musician. He was one of the most important and accesible artists of all time, who endured for decades, staying relevant well past his peak.
Much like the Beatles, it's reasonable to expect even casual music listeners know at least one Petty song. There's something in his catalog for everyone. That's special.
Breaking in with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' self-titled debut in 1976, the band reached the 30th spot on the Billboard 100 with the album's first single, "Breakdown." The record was followed by 1978's "You're Gonna Get It!," which featrured two more of the band's most enduring songs, "Listen to Her Heart" and "Breakdown." "Tom Petty and the Hearbreakers" and "You're Gonna Get It!" charted at the number 55 and number 23 spots, respectively.
The American rock icon was just getting started, however.
From 1979 through 1985, the Heartbreakers released a string of four top ten albums, all going platinum at least once, with the exception of 1982's "Long After Dark," which went gold.
And much like the Fab Four who preceeded him, he was relevant to pop radio and rock purists, alike.
This is especially true of the hit singles from Petty's 1990 solo album, "Full Moon Fever": "Free Fallin'" (charted 7th in the US), "I Won't Back Down" (12) and "Runnin' Down a Dream" (23).
But it's one thing to chart well, and another to make enduring music. It's even more impressive to do both. And that's exactly what Petty did.
His music will live on and continue to influence kids in their garages just starting a band, just like he has some of the greatest artists to come after him.