Tom Petty – Music Legend!
I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of music-great, Tom Petty, on October 2, 2017. Petty was a true artist in every sense of the word. He was a man of many talents. Petty was a singer, songwriter, record producer and multi-instrumentalist. He also dabbled in acting, making cameo appearances from time to time.
Thomas Earl Petty was born on October 20, 1950 in Gainesville, Florida. As a young boy, Petty was always drawn to music. His love affair with rock and roll began when he was 10 years old. Petty’s uncle was working on the set of Follow That Dream, an Elvis Presley movie being shot in Ocala, Florida in 1961. 10-year-old, Tom, got the thrill of a lifetime when he was invited to the set and had the opportunity to meet larger-than-life musician/actor, Presley. The meeting turned out to be a pivotal event in Petty’s life.
Tom Petty was not a great student and disliked school so much that eventually he dropped out at the age of 17. Music was his passion and Elvis Presley was his inspiration. In the early years, he was part of the Sundowners, the Epics, and Mudcrutch. Petty, although, was probably best known for being lead singer and lead guitarist of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which was formed in 1975; the same year his solo career was taking off.
As talented as Tom Petty was, he didn’t really enjoy any notoriety in the United States until he won over British audiences in 1976 with his single, Anything That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll. They also flipped for Breakdown and American Girl. Following his triumphs overseas, he was finally recognized in the United States for the mega talent that he was. After that, we just couldn’t get enough! Petty’s unique vocal sound just captivated us in his hit songs like Free Fallin', I Won't Back Down and You Got Lucky. The list literally goes on and on.
In 1988, Tom Petty teamed up with music giants, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison to form The Traveling Wilburys. Each of these artists were stars in their own right, but together they were larger-than-life. They were a British-American music group stacked with remarkable talent, although they only recorded 2 albums.
While Petty celebrated many successes, he was not without his struggles. He was an advocate for musician’s rights, almost to a fault. He had plenty of run-ins with recording companies; including the 1979 decision he made to go bankrupt rather than to release, Damn the Torpedoes because he felt he was being taken advantage of. Eventually, the dispute was resolved and Petty picked up where he left off making music. At one point, he also suffered from a Heroin addiction and struggled to kick the habit. After not being able to do it on his own, he checked into a rehab and got clean.
Tom Petty’s accomplishments are almost too numerous to recognize individually, but suffice it to say that he was instrumental in shaping the rock and roll genre as we know it today. During his epic career, he sold over 80 million records, worldwide. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Tom Petty made music because he loved it. He wasn’t driven as much by money as by passion for his craft. He left an inspirational legacy of music for his fans and generations to come. He was one of the greatest musician of his time. Well done, Tom Petty!
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