As always, I’m a day late and a dollar short with this post, but I had to say something on the passing of legendary rocker Tom Petty. Petty was a staple on the classic rock radio I grew up listening to, so he was an important musical figure in my early life. I distinctly remember seeing him play “Walls” on Saturday Night Live and seeing the video for “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” when it premiered in the early 1990’s. I saw Petty live once, in the mid-1990’s, and remember the show being really good.
But, like most things, I took Tom Petty for granted. The last album I bought and listened to from Tom was THE LAST DJ. My musical tastes shifted in high school away from rock towards blues. I know that everything eventually ends and we are all destined to one day die, but for some reason, I never thought I’d have to exist in a post-Tom Petty world. But here we are.
Of all the things Tom Petty was a part of, probably my favorite was The Traveling Wilburys. I don’t hear very many people talk about them anymore, but the Wilbury’s quirky brand of rock always impressed me. On paper, super groups should always produce amazing music, but the reality is that, for most, the sum is never greater than the parts. The Traveling Wilburys were the exception, though they only released two albums, they’re one of my all-time favorite bands. Tom Petty was the “young” guy in the group, the one who (at the time) was the mortal among the legends. That Tom Petty was able to fit into a band with Bob Dylan and George Harrison should go a long way in proving Petty’s exceptional talent. With Petty’s death, the world is now down three Wilburys: Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Tom Petty. To think that Dylan outlived Tom Petty is actually pretty mind-blowing and just goes to show you that you never can tell who has how much time remaining.
When I think of Tom Petty, I’ll always think of the Wilburys, my parents vinyl copy of SOUTHERN ACCENTS, and how he chose to not go after The Strokes for ripping off “American Girl” with their breakout hit “Last Night.” If you haven’t heard “Last Night” in a while, go back and listen, the guitar riff totally rips off “American Girl.” A young band like The Strokes could have had their careers ruined by a lawsuit from a powerful rock star, but Petty (and/or his management) never saw fit to take the NYC hipsters to task for their blatant plagiarism. Now that I’m older, I actually see how generous and kind this act was on Petty’s part.
Rest in Power, Tom Petty. Your catchy, southern-infused brand of rock will live forever in the hearts of rock fans forever.