I bought my first Tom Petty album in 1980. It was Damn the Torpedoes, his latest at that time. I loved what I heard... songs like "Refugee", "Here Comes My Girl", "Don't Do Me Like That" and "Even the Losers" had a somehow raw-yet-at-the-same-time-polished sound to which I gravitated. As a new songwriter, I wanted to create music like he did. And I liked his attitude... strongly opinionated, but not forceful or rude. In fact, he was quite the laid-back dude. And he loved The Beatles, and he loved Elvis, and I did too. He also reminded me a bit of my first guitarist, Rick Glenna, in looks and in attitude. I loved that he battled his record company when they were going to charge a dollar more per unit for his about-to-be-released record just because he was a hot commodity and they knew they could get it, and he withheld the master tapes until they agreed to keep it at the going rate for albums, $8.98 at the time. In fact, he threatened to title the album "$8.98" ...and he would have, I'm sure, had they not backed down! (And perhaps that's where the inspiration for that song came from...?) My bands through the years have covered several of his songs, including "I Won't Back Down", "Free Fallin'", "Runnin' Down a Dream", "The Waiting" and "Refugee" to name a few. "The Waiting" is still in my solo show repertoire, and methinks I'll be adding another title or two.
So, another music legend, another influence on my own craft, has passed. Though I've never met any of my true music idols, they become a part of me, of my psyche... a part of my life. Thankfully we have recordings and video and the internet to keep our legends alive. If you think about it, before these mediums came about, when an artist was gone, they were gone... period. No way to ever hear them again. So I thank God for records, I thank him for films and photos, and I thank him for Tom Petty.
P.S. If you want to see an excellent film biography of Petty's life, check out Runnin' Down a Dream, directed by Peter Bogdanovich. It plays like a good movie... as Tom's life surely did.