Tom Petty 1950-2017

Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

LOS ANGELES – Monday morning Tom Petty was found unconscious in full cardiac arrest at his home in Los Angeles. He was rushed to LA hospital, where he died at 8:40 p.m., surrounded by close friends, family, and bandmates.

Tom Petty was born October 20, 1950, in Gainsville, Florida. After living a childhood of poverty and surviving an abusive father, Petty went on to become the quintessential voice of rock and nostalgic Americana.

One of my first childhood memories is hearing “Free Fallin'” play through the large speakers in the living room of our house in Bellevue, Washington. Even at the naive age of five, I remember the image created through Petty’s lyrics being so clear. I felt like I knew the girl he was talking about; the way he described her, it was like she was standing in the room next to me every time that song came on.

Over my lifetime I have witnessed many music trends come and go. Even while developing my own taste in music, artists and sub-genres came and went. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were different though – they were the first band that defined “timelessness” to me through action rather than textbook definition, both musically and stylistically.

Tom Petty was always an advocate for artists’ creative freedom and an opposer of all injustices. He has always made me feel accepted as a boy, a man, an American and an artist. To me, a true rock star is the voice of the disenfranchised, and no one has embodied this within the artistic community like Petty did.

“Well, I started out down a dirty road. Started out, all alone.”

No matter where I’ve been in my life, Tom Petty has been there. There’s something incredible about an artist who tells a story, and every time you hear it, it feels like your own.

“Well the good old days, may not return.” 

Tom Petty helped us learn to fly, and he will be missed.

Rest in peace, my brother.