The music world lost one of the most beloved contributors to the great American songbook of the contemporary era when Tom Petty passed away Monday night at the age of 66 after suffering a heart attack. Best known for his work with his band the Heartbreakers, the singer was so much more than that though.
Petty came up in the late-70s as an artist, but he truly flourished when becoming an unlikely staple of the fledgling music channel MTV in its video heyday. Inventive clips for tracks like “You Got Lucky,” “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream” stood up right alongside the Michael Jackson and Madonna superstar treatments of the time.
He was also a last minute addition to the Traveling Wilburys, a supergroup if there ever was one, featuring rock royalty in George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne. Earlier this year, he celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Heartbreakers with shows at the Wells Fargo Center, bookending the month of July by playing on the first and 29th of the month.
The outpouring of affection for Petty from his fellow musicians was overwhelming as news of his death spread.
“It’s shocking, crushing news,” Dylan told Rolling Stone in a statement. “I thought the world of Tom. He was a great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him.”
“Dear Tom, so sad to hear of his passing,” tweeted Paul McCartney. “What a lovely, intelligent and talented man he was. Love to his family.”
“So sad about Tom Petty, he made some great music,” tweeted Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger. “Thoughts are with his family.”
“No! We have lost Tom Petty,” tweeted Kiss co-founder Paul Stanley. “From our opening act in the seventies to becoming a brilliant songwriter and performer I have loved his music.”
“More sad news today with passing [of] another great rocker Tom Petty,” tweeted Meat Loaf. “Great writer with classic songs that marked a time in many people’s lives, loving fans who he also loved. The world lost a great one today. He still lives with us in his music. As his daughter said earlier today, a normal guy who loved what he did. Our prayers go out to Tom and his family.”
“I loved Tom Petty and I covered his songs because I wanted know what it felt like to fly,” tweeted guitarist John Mayer before quoting a lyric from the song “Wildflowers” which goes, “you belong somewhere you feel free.”
“I can’t believe we have lost Tom Petty on this already horrible day,” tweeted Peter Frampton. “My love to his wife & children and the entire Heartbreaker family.”
“Down here on E Street, we’re devastated and heartbroken over the death of Tom Petty,” Bruce Springsteen wrote on Twitter. “Our hearts go out to his family and bandmates. I’ve always felt a deep kinship with his music. A great songwriter and performer, whenever we saw each other, it was like running into a long lost brother. Our world will be a sadder place without him.”
Springsteen also opened up his “Springsteen on Broadway” run of storyteller shows this Tuesday by dedicating the show to Petty.
Acts like Coldplay, Ryan Adams, The National, Wilco, Imagine Dragons and many more paid tribute in concert by covering Petty songs ranging from “I Won’t Back Down” to “Damaged By Love.”
To contact music columnist Michael Christopher, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out his blog at www.thechroniclesofmc.com