Free Fallin’:

Remembering the Legacy of Legendary Rocker, Tom Petty

By Cheyenne Sykes

Posted on October 18, 2017 at 2:56 PM PDT

From left to right: The Traveling Wilburys Collection (2007 Box Set), Full Moon Fever (1989 Album), Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Long After Dark (1982 Album), Damn The Torpedoes (1979 Album)

From left to right: The Traveling Wilburys Collection (2007 Box Set), Full Moon Fever (1989 Album), Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Long After Dark (1982 Album), Damn The Torpedoes (1979 Album)

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.’
— John Mayer via Twitter

Free Fallin’ ”, “I Won’t Back Down”, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “American Girl.” Just a few of the many hits from a musician of his own merit. On October 2nd, 2017, not only did the music community lose a phenomenal lyrical and musical genius, the world lost a legend. Tom Petty was and always will be remembered for his uniqueness and his wisdom. The lessons  he strummed into hearts and minds will never be forgotten. While his presence will be missed, he lives on through his music and through the family and friends he left behind.

In October of 1950, down Southeast, in Gainesville, Florida, the world was graced with the birth of someone who would become a legend in the music industry. His name was Thomas Earl Petty. Through his four decade long career, he moved the world with his time as front man for his band “Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers,” a member of the Traveling Wilburys, and his collaborations with the likes of Johnny Cash, Stevie Nicks and so many other great musicians; he made a significant influence that would last for decades in the making.

According to the New York Times, the initial report of his death by CBS News was premature and very misleading, saying that he had passed at 1:00pm that day. The news station had assumed that the police confirmed Petty’s death. A few hours later, CBS took the tweet down because the LAPD reported that they could not actually confirm that he had died.  Later that night, Petty’s Manager, Tony Dimitriades announced that, around 9:00pm, he had passed away. Celebrities were quick to comment and send their condolences to Petty’s surviving family and to The Heartbreakers themselves.

Despite Petty’s target audience now being in their 40s and 50s, his music was passed down through the generations, letting them experience his artistry for themselves. Local guitarist and Petty fan, Jeff A., who began learning how to play at age 10, saw Petty for the first time when he performed at the Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2008. “I was about 12 years old and I was pretty blown away by his performance. He was one of the best songwriters of the late 20th century.” and later stated, “He definitely was one of my influences as a musician later on in my teens when I started listening to his music.”

When Petty played as a member of the Traveling Wilburys, he sang alongside musical giants like Bob Dylan, George Harrison from the Beatles, Jeff Lynne from ELO (Electric Lights Orchestra) and Roy Orbison, under the alias “Charlie T. Wilbury, Jr.” When Petty was growing up, he was a fan of Harrison when he saw him and the other members of The Beatles perform on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” In this band, he brought his unique singing style and his guitar expertise to make two studio albums with the group. His southern drawl made his vocals stand out among the five. Remarkable especially in consideration for Dylan’s gritty bass, Orbison’s baritone, Harrison’s soft tenor and Lynne’s deep tenor. He brought his own spin on the tunes they made, which made the collaboration one of a kind, and a once in a lifetime opportunity.

While Petty may not physically be with us, he will be whenever you turn on your radio or when you watch his music videos. Many current musicians credit Petty for his influence on their choice to follow their dreams. Even if you’re missing him,  in Tom’s own words:

You and I will meet again

When we're least expecting it

One day in some far off place

I will recognize your face

I won't say goodbye my friend

For you and I will meet again.

(“You and I Will Meet Again,” Tom Petty )