Tom Petty passed away at the age of 66 today after going into cardiac arrest late Sunday night. Petty was one of the last great surviving songwriters of our time and the world is mourning right now, with many taking to social media to pay tribute to Petty. It's hard to think of a time when Tom Petty wasn't cool, he was always like the really awesome uncle that you had, but never got to hang out with. His voice spoke to generations; helping people mend broken hearts as teenagers all the way to dealing with mortality later in life.
Johnny Cash once told the humble Petty that, "You're a good man to ride the river with," something that Petty never took for granted. Cash then paid ultimate tribute by covering "I Won't Break Down" and turning it into his own song. It doesn't get much better than that, but for Thomas Earl Petty, it did get better. Petty was used to rubbing shoulders with music royalty, but it never went to his head. Petty jammed with Beatles, wrote songs with Bob Dylan (and backed him up on tour), sang harmony with Roy Orbison, backed Chet Atkins, sang with Axl Rose, and invited Dave Grohl from Nirvana to join the Heartbreakers after the death of Kurt Cobain.
While most aging rockers started to put out crappy records later in life, Tom Petty started to get better. 1994's Wildflowers is a stunning album of beauty and darkness, with some humor thrown in to boot. When the songs stopped coming, Tom Petty and the loyal Heartbreakers went back to their roots and put out bluesy rock records with deep grooves and searing guitar solos from Petty's right-hand man, Mike Campbell (one of the most underrated guitar players in the world). Tom Petty kept on experimenting while still being true to himself and as a result, he was true to us.
"It's shocking, crushing news. I thought the world of Tom. He was great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I'll never forget him."
Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer, Chad Smith, took to Twitter to say, "Love me some Tom Petty. RIP Tom." Singer/Songwriter, John Mayer, also took to Twitter to pay tribute to Petty with some lyrics from the song "Wildflowers". Mayer said, I loved Tom Petty and I covered his songs because I wanted know what it felt like to fly. "you belong somewhere you feel free."
Public Enemy's Chuck D shared a story about meeting Petty backstage at show. D had this to say.
Damn ....Tom Petty I remember standing backstage w him & he tells me 'Go Get Em at a presentation."
Director and rabid music fan, Cameron Crowe, said, "no words. Just thanks, Tom Petty." Sheryl Crow also took to Twitter to pay tribute. Crow said, "This is unbearable. Vegas and now a great music hero has passed. You brought us so much joy, Tom Petty. We will miss you... I feel like today, the music truly died. Can't go see/hear music and be safe and one of the greats just passed." Tom Petty was a part of our family. We may not have known him personally, but you feel like you did. You felt like he stood up for you, like he was there for you, and that he wasn't going to take any shit. You can check out some more tributes to Tom Petty below. Rest in Peace, Tom "My middle name is Earl" Petty.