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Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac wrote Tom Petty’s entry in Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 100 Artists Of All Time issue. In it, she recalled a time she wanted to make a new record, but she was scared.

“I said to him, “Will you help me write a song or two?” I didn’t really expect the reaction I got, which was, “No, I won’t. You are one of the premier songwriters in this business. Go home and turn off the radio. Don’t be influenced by anything. Just write some great songs – that’s what you do.” He reinforced that I was still Stevie Nicks. I wrote a song about him I’ve never recorded, but I will someday. It goes, “Sometimes he’s my best friend, even when he’s not around.”

Petty was an influence to many artists over the course of his career, but the very first influence in his musical career was not who many might think – Petty’s uncle worked on an Elvis Presley movie, and when young Tom visited the set and met the King, that was the moment he became focused on music. Further experiences, like seeing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and being taught guitar by Don Felder (later of the Eagles) got him set on a career in music, and he formed his first band, The Epic. Later the group would develop a large following around their hometown of Gainesville, Florida as ‘Mudcrutch’. (Mudcrutch would reunite in 2007.)

In 1977, Petty went solo, forming his own band the Heartbreakers with Mudcrutch members Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell. Their eponymous debut album featured a single that hit #40 on the Billboard charts.

Their second album, You’re Gonna Get It! was their first top-40 album, but it was their third, Damn The Torpedos, that was their big breakthrough. It featured some of the most recognizable songs in Petty’s catalogue.

Having defined their sound, they followed it up with 1981’s Hard Promises which brought us the classic ‘The Waiting’, and was followed by Long After Dark in 1982 and Southern Accents in 1985, which featured this gem:

Southern Accents led to a tour supporting Bob Dylan, which led to an invite to join the first real supergroup, the Travelling Wilburys. Petty joined Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne to create these classics.

In 1989, Petty released what many consider to be his first true solo album, though he brought some members of the Heartbreakers along for the ride. Full Moon Fever featured these hits:

1991 brought the reunion of The Heartbreakers, and Into The Great Wide Open.

Before leaving MCA Records for Warner Brothers, Petty fulfilled his contractual obligations by releasing one more album, a Greatest Hits compilation. Not content to just throw together a bunch of songs, he recorded two new tracks for that record, one of which was this one:

His first album for Warner Brothers was 1994’s Wildflowers which, in addition to the tremendous title track and the masterful ‘A Higher Place’, included this timeless song:

Petty and the Heartbreakers then did a movie soundtrack. Remember that Cameron Diaz Jennifer Aniston movie She’s The One? Neither do we. But that was the movie, and the soundtrack was better than the film. At the same time the band accompanied Johnny Cash on Unchained, and Cash returned the favour by covering a Petty classic on American III: Solitary Man.

Not just Johnny Cash, but many others would cover Petty over the years, be influenced by him, and often join him on stage.

Petty expanded his oeuvre with a foray into film and acting. He played Lucky in 28 episodes of the TV series King of the Hill.

Petty also had a role as the Bridge City mayor in the otherwise dreadful Kevin Costner movie The Postman.

In 2006, Petty released his third true solo album, Highway Companion. This was the lead single:

Petty’s last album was, fittingly, with the Heartbreakers, 2014’s Hypnotic Eye. He died October 2nd, 2017, after being admitted to the hospital with heart failure. He was 66. We leave you with these:

Petty’s death, coming on the same day as the worst mass shooting in American history in Las Vegas, has still seen an outpouring of celebrity tributes. Here are just two:

Sheryl Crow tweeted: “This is unbearable. Vegas and now a great music hero has passed. You brought us so much joy, @tompetty. We will miss you. ”

John Mayer tweeted: “I loved Tom Petty and I covered his songs because I wanted know what it felt like to fly.
“you belong somewhere you feel free.”