Tom Petty has lived up to his band’s name in the manner of his health situation and its impact on his many fans. The legendary rock and roller was hospitalized today after suffering cardiac arrest. The founder and frontman of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Petty is a wonderfully weird personality. With elements of Bowie and Zappa blended with Southern Charm and American energy, Tom has offered his own quirky humor and powerful guitar to the world of music, becoming one of the most beloved acts in rock and roll for the last 40 years.
While he is not in a good place right now, Tom Petty has not officially been declared dead by any reputable source. I was distraught after hearing about his heart attack, and later death… until I double-checked on the early reports and found that they done goofed! Read this article in the Washington Post that highlights how even in today’s information age, one reported jump to conclusion can set off a chain reaction of attempts to get the next bombshell dropped that overtake the pursuit of the truth. It feels like a modern version of false death reporting like what happened quite famously to Mark Twain.
The roughest part about all this is that while Petty is still alive, he may not return to full strength. Rather than fearfully dwell on what may occur, let’s wish for the best to come and reflect on the best that has.
Tom Petty was my white whale as far as concerts were concerned. Many of my college friends are happily obsessed with him and his Heartbreakers – my friend Mike saw him six times, or was it seven? The first time for him and our other pals to partake in Petty’s presence was after our freshman year of undergrad. I had to skip the trip to go to the show because I was taking summer classes, and missing a chemistry lab is much rougher than one lecture. Either way, I wish I had been less responsible and had skipped. I did get another chance a couple years later when Mike and his cousin traveled into their homestate of New York to see him upstate. This time, family responsibilities prevented me from making it. When my friends said that Petty was making a stop in Cleveland on his Heartbreakers 40th anniversary tour my curiosity was again piqued. Then I saw that Joe Walsh was the opening act. In a classic “You had my curiosity, but now you have my attention” moment. This summer I finally saw him, with Walsh and all, and it was worth it. The highlight of the experience was to take my younger sister to her first concert ever. A concert put on by her favorite artist, no less. Years ago, I bought a CD of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Greatest Hits… and promptly lost it to my little sis. She played it on repeat so often that you could clearly see the tracks she preferred the most. Most starkly shining on the underside of disc was the middle track, her all-time favorite song, “I Won’t Back Down”.
This has now become a rallying cry urging the health rebound all of Tom’s fans are wishing for. Here’s hoping that he can make it happen; if anyone can, it’s this wacky sonofabitch. He may be a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, but his greatest honor is the admiration of the millions of fans like my sister whose lives have been brightened by his music.
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