Tom Petty

A gifted songwriter as well as a rock star of the highest order, Tom Petty bridged the gap between new wave and classic rock and became one of the most well-liked and successful musical artists of his time. Born October 20, 1950 in Gainseville, Florida, he decided to be a rock and roll star after the one-two punch of meeting Elvis Presley in 1961 and seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. After a number of early bands including Mudcrutch, he solidified a backing group dubbed The Heartbreakers with guitarist Mike Campbell, keyboardist Benmont Tench, drummer Stan Lynch, and bassist Ron Blair. That line up recorded 1977’s Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which broke first in the UK, a country that gave them a pair of top 40 hits, “American Girl” and “Anything That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll”. 1978’s You’re Gonna Get It! fared better on the charts, but it was 1979’s Damn the Torpedoes that broke them by hitting number 2 and spawning a pair of top 20 singles, Don’t Do Me Like That” and Refugee”. 1981’s Hard Promises returned him to the top 10 and the lead single “The Waiting” topped the newly inaugurated Mainstream Rock chart. Howie Epstein replaced Ron Blair on bass for 1982’s Long After Dark. After difficult recording sessions for 1985’s Southern Accents, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers toured with Bob Dylan who ended up co-writing the group’s 1987 hit “Jammin’ Me” from Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough). Taking a break from the Heartbreakers, Tom Petty became one-fifth of the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys alongside Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne. Lynne would produce Tom Petty’s first solo album, 1989’s Full Moon Fever, which would spin off three of his biggest hits, “Free Fallin’”, “I Won’t Back Down”, and “Runnin’ Down a Dream”. He brought back all The Heartbreakers for 1991’s Into the Great Wide Open. His 1993 greatest hits collection included two new tracks including the hit “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”. After a period of personal turmoil when his marriage ended, he teamed with producer Rick Rubin for the solo album Wildflowers in 1994. The album earned rave reviews yet again and produced the single “You Don’t Know How It Feels”, which became his tenth top 20 pop single as well as his tenth single to top the Mainstream Rock chart. He wrote songs for the film She’s the One and released a soundtrack in 1996 that included the hit “Walls”. Tom Petty finished up the decade with 1999’s Echo. Though he toured regularly throughout the next century, his singles stopped charting. The albums, including 2002’s The Last DJ, 2010’s Mojo, and 2014’s Hypnotic Eye continued to do well with Hypnotic Eye becoming his first LP to top the album chart. During that period, he also reunited his old band Mudcrutch for a pair of albums in 2008 and 2016. Tom Petty unexpectedly passed away on October 2, 2017 leaving behind a rich discography that stands alongside those of the many legends that he worked with throughout his forty-year career. Posthumous releases from his estate include Wildflowers and All the Rest, as well as 2021’s Angel Dream, which revisited the songs he wrote for She’s the One.

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