Tom Petty - death of a legend


A heartbreaker inspired by heartbreakers

Tom Petty knew about career plans at an early age already: as a 10-year-old boy from Florida, he had met Elvis Presley, leaving a lasting impression for life. Growing up with the Beatles playing on the TV, he realized that he, too, wanted to be a musician on stage.


Early success in Europe

His band "Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers" captured the spirit of the times, celebrating its initial success in Europe in the 1970s. In the US, Petty and his band members only started to enjoy rockstar treatment in the 1980s. The band shared the stage with numerous other legends of rock, such as "The Grateful Dead."


A music lover in more ways than one

His initial records stood out for their brevity. "Damn the Torpedoes" released in 1979 only contained 36 minutes of music but still went onto score triple platinum sales in the US, serving as the US launchpad for "Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers." Part of his success was the fact that he felt free to experiment and reference other musical styles.


Reaching out to his contemporaries

The 1980s saw major successes for his band, with high-scoring tracks like "You Got Lucky" and "Change of Heart." Tom Petty also went on to perform with Stevie Nicks and Bob Dylan. He even started another band with Dylan, which Roy Orbison and George Harrison were also part of: "The Traveling Wilburys."


"Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" welcomes Petty

In 2002, "Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers" were inducted into the "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame," which praised their music as the "quintessence of American individualism." Hearing of his passing, Rock Hall CEO Greg Harris said that "his vocals captured our soul with songs that sounded like hits the first time we heard them. He made his mark on music and our lives."


Bob Dylan in mourning

Bob Dylan told Rolling Stone magazine that hearing of Tom Petty's death was "shocking, crushing news" for him: "I thought the world of Tom. He was a great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I'll never forget him."


Timeless words

Critics and fans alike celebrated Tom Petty as an insightful songwriter. Many felt that his lyrics were intelligent, sensitive and yet full of pure rock spirit. In his song "I Won't Back Down," Petty says: "Well I know what's right, I got just one life in a world that keeps on pushing me around, but I'll stand my ground and I won't back down."

The American rockstar died of coronary disease in Los Angeles, aged 66. Earlier this year, he had embarked on a tour with his band, the "Heartbreakers," on their 40th jubilee.

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