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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

In Memoriam: Tom Petty

Written by Jon Williams

On a day already darkened by sadness, music lovers everywhere were shocked Monday by the news of rocker Tom Petty’s passing. He was 66.

Born in 1950 in Gainesville, Florida, Petty overcame a rough childhood to find fame in the music industry. With early influences including Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones, and guitar lessons from Don Felder of the Eagles, he first formed a band that eventually became known as Mudcrutch. After that band struggled to find success, some lineup shuffling eventually resulted in the Heartbreakers, the band which Petty was associated with for most of his music career. In 1976, their self-titled debut album hit the charts first in Great Britain, and then spread to the U.S. Containing the classic hits “Breakdown” and “American Girl,” it kicked off a musical legacy that would grow to legendary status over the course of the next 41 years.

The band’s first taste of success soon led to more. You’re Gonna Get It!, released in 1978, was their first album to chart in North America, and 1979’s Damn the Torpedoes (currently unavailable on CD, although patrons can stream it on hoopla) gained multiplatinum status. The ‘80s were a very productive time for the band, spawning albums including Long After Dark (1982) and Southern Accents (1985). Petty’s greatest success came on 1989’s Full Moon Fever, technically a solo album, although members of the Heartbreakers did contribute.

Full Moon Fever also benefitted from the presence of a number of other musical legends: Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and ELO’s Jeff Lynne. The five of them had gotten together in 1988 for a single (“Handle with Care”), and ended up recording an entire album as the Traveling Wilburys. Although Orbison passed away late that year, the remaining members put together a second album, joking titled Volume 3, which was released in 1990. Of course, Petty was no stranger to high-profile collaborations. His duet with Stevie Nicks, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” appeared on her debut solo album, while another duet, “Insider,” was released on his album Hard Promises. He and the Heartbreakers also backed Johnny Cash on the country icon’s 1996 album Unchained.

In 2007, Petty reunited his first band, Mudcrutch, and together they recorded two albums: their eponymous “debut,” released in 2008, and 2, released in 2016, which would be Petty’s final recording. Through it all, though, Petty never stopped working with the Heartbreakers. Their two most recent albums, Mojo and Hypnotic Eye, were released in 2010 and 2014. The band had just finished their 40th anniversary tour, with the final performance coming September 25 at the Hollywood Bowl.

Tom Petty is sadly gone, but his classic rock hits will endure. Make sure you have his music on your shelves for patrons to check out and enjoy again and again. You can SmartBrowse his name on our website to find all the albums listed above and more.