Analogue Music | Remembering Tom Petty: 1950 - 2017

Remembering Tom Petty: 1950 - 2017

By Thom Daugherty

“Don’t book any shows this particular weekend! Tom Petty’s coming to Indy and we’ve got tickets.”

We were a hard-working band playing 200 shows a year, but Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers coming to our home turf was going to be equal parts band education and vacation.

The weather got crazy—buckets of rain, wind, lightning—but we didn’t care. Then came rumors of a tornado in the area. Maybe we were a little nervous but we remained in place. We were singing along with 20,000 other soaked Hoosiers during a two-and-a-half hour Tom Petty hit parade. The power went out—twice. We still kept singing. I’ll never forget it, and I’ll never stop telling the story.

* * *

I knew this day was coming, and I knew how much it was going to hurt. Every time an artist who’s made a serious cultural contribution to the world dies, I get a bit low. But in the back of my head, I’m always thinking, “Thank God it wasn’t Eddie. Thank God it wasn’t Bruce or Bono. Thank God it wasn’t Tom. I would be absolutely heartbroken.”

I knew it was coming, but I didn’t think it would happen this soon.

* * *

Growing up, my friends and I formed an unholy alliance of grunge fanatics, emo kids, and Britpop enthusiasts, but the one commonality in our CD collections was Tom Petty records. He and his band were so undeniably good that they were also undeniably cool, no matter what else you were into.

When I decided to play music for a living, he came to mean even more to me. Then Tom wasn’t just cool; he embodied excellence. The songs and the tones, the performances and the gear, the decor on stage all the way down to the way they cleanly ran their instrument cables—all of it inspired me.

As much as I love seeing other bands use multi-screens and fluorescent bracelets syncd to programming, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers didn’t need it. It came down to one of the greatest American songwriters, backed by guys who were the best at their position, playing on a beautiful Persian rug that covered the entire stage with a chandelier hanging over them, and you singing along with two-and-a-half hours worth of songs that were embedded along with the most memorable experiences of your life. That's all you really needed, it turns out.

If there is a right way to do it, a way to be legit, Tom Petty hath shown us the way. And he’ll be rewarded with Timelessness because of it. There’s a costly price to pay for such, but Tom was willing.

So thank you, Tom. For everything. Beyond the music, I know you were a husband, a father, a great human, and your family and friends mourn the loss in ways that I cannot. But I want to thank you for everything that you’ve stood for in my mind, because you've made me want to live life better and be committed to my craft, just as you were to yours.

Enjoy your Room at the Top of the World tonight. You’ve earned it.