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.
Damn ....Tom Petty I remember standing backstage w him & he tells me 'Go Get Em at a. Presentation #rockAnointed— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) October 2, 2017
I feel like today, the music truly died. Can't go see/hear music and be safe and one of the greats just passed. 💔— Sheryl Crow (@SherylCrow) October 2, 2017
Tom Petty was one of the biggest inspirations for me as a musician. This one will hurt for a long time. Truly one of the sweetest people on earth. Rest In Peace brother.— nathan followill (@doctorfollowill) October 2, 2017
I loved Tom Petty and I covered his songs because I wanted know what it felt like to fly.— John Mayer (@JohnMayer) October 2, 2017
“you belong somewhere you feel free.”
Tom Petty. One of the greatest songwriters of our generation.Thank you for ALL the music.Prayers to your family & band members.#RIPTomPetty— Nikki Sixx (@NikkiSixx) October 2, 2017
damn we love you Tom Petty. incredible songwriter. "free fallin" is truly one of the greatest pieces of american art. so perfect & sad— Ezra Koenig (@arzE) October 2, 2017
RIP Tom Petty— Ryan Adams (@TheRyanAdams) October 2, 2017
Thank you for giving so much, a lifetime of inspiration and love. Your music has changed this world for the better. pic.twitter.com/jZsjIN5Xu3
forever one of my favorite souls— christina perri (@christinaperri) October 2, 2017
forever in my heart
thank you, tom petty, for everything
My video of Tom Petty’s last show ever last Monday. I hate this. I grew up on your music. I’m so glad I got to experience this. pic.twitter.com/dIIrpOxvyl— Courtney (@CourtneyXCrowe) October 2, 2017
Man this cannot be happening. Not Tom Petty please. Our deepest love and condolences to his family and band. A brother and true believer.— Stevie Van Zandt (@StevieVanZandt) October 2, 2017
Tom Petty gone? That’s just so wrong. What a bad day this has been, in so many ways.— Stephen King (@StephenKing) October 2, 2017
At a Tom Petty show in Austin walking toward it, a full 3/4 of a mile to the stage every single person living was singing every word. That's the kinda powerful love you don't see everyday, but the kind we all long for when we think about our society and togetherness ❤️— Neko Case (@NekoCase) October 2, 2017
This one is for you Tom. It's for all of us today. RIP . We won't back down https://t.co/SOnQn2qM3m— Scooter Braun (@scooterbraun) October 2, 2017
Thank you, Tom Petty, for all of the light you brought to the world.— Ed Helms (@edhelms) October 2, 2017
RIP Tom Petty.— Rhett Miller (@rhettmiller) October 2, 2017
You gave us some of the greatest songs of the modern era. This one hurts.
No! We have lost Tom Petty. From our opening act in the seventies to becoming a brilliant songwriter and performer I have loved his music. pic.twitter.com/yhyPCfm2l6— Paul Stanley (@PaulStanleyLive) October 2, 2017
Noooo... Not Tom Petty. I can't even put into words how heartbroken I am. Praying for Adria & his family pic.twitter.com/0nW0dwe8jj— Cary Elwes (@Cary_Elwes) October 2, 2017
Tom petty died???!!!!! No!!!!— Drake Bell (@DrakeBell) October 2, 2017
R.I.P. Tom Petty 💔— J O E J O N A S (@joejonas) October 2, 2017
Damn it. NO! Tom Petty got me thru this morning....— Colin Hanks (@ColinHanks) October 2, 2017
Did we really just lose Tom Petty? Fucking hell. I have no words. FUCK!— Nick Martin (@nodirectioncasa) October 2, 2017
RIP Tom Petty 🙁 Such a shitty day— Courtney Love Cobain (@Courtney) October 2, 2017