During the height of the 1970s, when one thought of rock music, the groups that possibly came to mind were Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Electric Light Orchestra and many other names that have made music and still play in households since their initial radio debuts. This plethora of popular music made it difficult for many artists to initially receive the recognition they deserve. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were a shining example of the difficulties that came to be when trying to become a successful band. While overcoming the obstacles they encountered, Petty and his band became a shining example of true American rock ‘n’ roll, until his untimely death on Monday, Oct. 2.
During the tumultuous news of Petty’s death, I honestly didn’t want to accept the fact he was dead. I received calls from my girlfriend, dad, mom and aunt, all telling me the tragic news. Upon hearing his death wasn’t official, I prayed he could pull through. Sadly, he didn’t make it, but it made me realize what a lasting impression one man can make with his music.
When I was a kid, I remember hearing Petty’s music and wondering how something could remain so incredibly timeless. With both of my parents growing up on his music, I was exposed to a tremendous amount of music from the ‘70s, and Petty was always one of the musicians who stood out to me. Apart from hearing his music in movies, games and television shows, it was art I actively listened to on my own. When I learned how to play guitar, I would listen to the opening riff of “Runnin’ Down a Dream” over and over, emulating the sound Petty created in 1989, realizing I’m one of thousands Petty has inspired.
I always found it memorable that during an era of rock music dominated by English bands, The Heartbreakers showed America was relevant when it came to developing their own music. Even after two years of not placing a single song on the American music chart after the release of their first album, there was no impeding the band’s desire to make an impact with their music. This is such an admirable trait, one that I still look at with admiration.
I’m not the only person who admires everything Petty accomplished throughout his career--many famous musicians, from his peers to modern day artists, mourned the news of his death, including Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, Matt Schultz of Cage the Elephant and Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters (the latter two are known for actively covering Petty songs at their concerts). All expressed their sympathies and acknowledged how Petty influenced the music they currently make.
Although he passed away, and the world currently mourns for him, Petty has immortalized himself through his music. Generations of people, all across the world, will continue to embrace and be influenced by the music Petty has blessed us with. From casual fans to professional musicians, Tom Petty has altered the way music is currently understood, and even in his death, his words will continue to inspire.
The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch.