RIP Tom Petty, One of Heartland Rock’s Finest

October 2nd, 2017: As seen on SONGLYRICS (PDF)

Tom Petty in the 70s; lost to a heart-attack on October 2, 2017: Photo: N/A


UPDATE (9:15 p.m.): Tom Petty has passed. Tony Dimitriades, Petty’s longtime manager, confirmed the death via The New York Times.

UPDATE (3:43 p.m.): The LAPD cannot confirm Petty’s death, TMZ is reportinghe’s still “clinging to life.” Both TMZ and CBS were reporting off information now retracted from the LAPD.

As America and the world mourn those lost in one of the largest mass shootings ever in Las Vegas last night, another tragic blow in the music community is here to kick us further while we’re down — TMZ is reporting Tom Petty, upon being found unconscious in full cardiac arrest, was clinging to life support, and has as of this evening, been confirmed deceased by Tony Dimitriades, Petty’s manager.

There was widespread confusion today after CBS and TMZ broke Petty’s life-support status based on loose reports by the LAPD, who quickly blasted two tweets clarifying the situation and how they “inadvertently provided” information on Petty’s condition, said they have no information on Petty’s passing and apologized for the “inconvenience in this reporting.”

Having just finished a massive 53-show, 24-state 40th anniversary tour with the Heartbreakers, wrapping up with a trio of sold-out performances at the Hollywood Bowl, of which he alluded to Rolling Stone in December of 2016, that it was the ‘last big one‘, Petty was found in his Malibu home on Sunday night and had been on life support since, reportedly was clinging to life support throughout the day, and passed this evening.

“We’re all on the backside of our sixties,” he said in that RS interview. “I have a granddaughter now I’d like to see as much as I can. I don’t want to spend my life on the road. This tour will take me away for four months. With a little kid, that’s a lot of time.”

Inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame in 2002, Petty started his career back in the late 70s with the Heartbreakers crew, cutting 13 records with them over the years and three solo records stocked with all those hits that have become golden-heartland AOR sing-along staples since — “American Girl,” “Free Fallin‘,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” the list goes on and is not short.

Like Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen and those other Heartlander Americana character sketchers, Petty was something of an anomaly coming out of Florida, channeling a slice of Americana that reached far outside the swampland, and always, for the most part, didn’t dip their toes in politics.

Doobage, corn-fed hope, small-town doldrums, these were Petty’s bread-and-butter tensions — simple on the surface, but universal classic pop archs, woven deeply and timeless into many an American’s upbringing.

Despite unconfirmed reports of Petty’s death, the world reacted with memorial social posts.

Director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy) hit it on the head on Twitter with a jukebox anecdote, “One night when I was 11, I played The Waiting by on a jukebox 100 times in a row. Loved the man’s voice & his art. RIP, Legend.”

Other people got a little vitriolic over the reporting mistake, like Petty’s daughter. “my dad is not dead yet but your fucking magazine is ⚡️⚡️⚡️your slime😵 has been pieces of tabloid dog shit. You put the worst artists on your covers do zero research,” she said in a section of her Instagram post. “How dare you report that my father has died just to get press because your articles and photos are so dated.”

Though the memorandum posts are coming in droves regardless, as Petty’s music influenced so many generations, with everyone from Ryan Adamsto Neko Case posting love and memories. So here’s to you, Sir Petty, you belong among the ‘wildflowers‘.

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free