Rock and Roll Legend, Tom Petty is dead at age 66.
Or is he???
Well, yeah, now he is. After false reports of his death surfaced early Monday, Petty was removed from life support after suffering a cardiac episode and hung on for several hours with the cord unplugged…that’s so Petty! I’d’ve been done immediately.
As is natural, fans come out of the woodwork to show their appreciation for man who made songs, and fought a system, and was a deep thread in the American rock and roll tapestry.
Casual listeners will say they remember Petty for his classic, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” as sung by plastered karoake enthusiasts and shitty cover bands on a nightly basis. However, if you probe a bit further, you’ll find they knew the man’s work a lot more than they let on. The obnoxious all caps will be played by me:
“Eh, I know that one and I like it but that’s about it.”
“AND I’M FREEEEEEEEEEE FREE FAAALLIN’!”
“Oh, that’s him too? I like that one!”
“WELL SHE WAS AN AMERICAN GIRL RAISED ON PROMISES!”
“That too?! I know that one.”
“LET’S GET TO POINT LET’S ROOOOLL ANOTHER JOOOOINT LET’S GET TO THE POINT-”
“LET’S ROLL! I know that one too!”
“YA DON HAVE TO LIVE LIKE A REFUGEE (don’t have to live like a re fu gee ee)!”
“Damn, I know that one too!”
See, the thing is Tom Petty and more specifically Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have more radio standards than you can count on two hands. My theory is, there are so many that it causes you not to remember a single one until you hear it.
Rock and Roll Through and Through
In 1979, Petty’s record label got bought out by MCA Records. This didn’t sit well with him, as he didn’t want to be transferred to another label without his permission. He felt so strongly about his ability to retain his right to publish his own music, that he filed bankruptcy in an attempt to get out of his contract with MCA. That’s not just rock, that’s punk rock, baby. The label buckled and they signed Tom with him having control of a small imprint, “Backstreet Records,” and then subsequently released the Sound City recorded masterpiece, Damn the Torpedoes.
He was involved in another dispute with his label when they insisted on selling his album, with a few other artists’ releases, a full dollar more than standard record prices. Petty took his complaint public, and the label eventually decided against the price increase. A man for the masses.
I love Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Since I was in high school, I insisted they are one of the top 5 American rock bands in history, and I stand by that to this day. I even forgive him for stealing a Replacements lyric. I’ll miss ya Tom, we all will.