Remembering the Original Heartbreaker


Tom Petty in concert in 2010. Creative Commons.

The world lost another icon on Mon., Oct. 2, as legendary rock artist Tom Petty died after suffering from cardiac arrest. Petty, a Hall of Fame musician, was confirmed dead by his publicist at 8:40 p.m.

Tom Petty debuted in the late 70s with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. This was his first of many successful music endeavors, but the band found success with their third album Damn the Torpedoes which sold nearly two million copies and included classic tracks such as “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Here Comes My Girl” and “Refugee.”

Petty’s true dominance over the music charts came in the late 80s and early 90s. in 1988, Petty joined up with the Traveling Wilburys, a music super group featuring former Beatle George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne, of Electric Light Orchestra. The band released three albums–two of the albums came after Orbison’s death in 1988–before the group disbanded so members could focus on solo projects.

Petty’s career skyrocketed in 1989 when he released Full Moon Forever which featured mega hits such as “Free Fallin,” “I Won’t Back Down,” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” These singles are by far his most influential and are still widely regarded as his best and most recognizable work. In 1991, Petty got back together with the Heartbreakers and released several records and continued touring playing shows all over the world, including a Super Bowl halftime show in 2008.

A week before his death Tom Petty was doing what he did best, rocking on stage and entertaining a crowd at the Hollywood Bowl which will now be known as his last live show.  Austin Robbins, a 23-year-old Attractions Cast Member at Disneyland, was one of the many in attendance that night. Robbins talked about his connection to Tom Petty and how it goes back to his parents.

“My mom would often take me to concerts of these old legends whenever we could,” Robbins said.

His mom surprised him with the Tom Petty tickets since he was only one of the acts that they haven’t seen.

“The show itself was amazing, Robbins said. “He played all the big songs that I knew and even a few I didn’t. ‘Learning to Fly’ and ‘Free Falling’ of course were sing along songs so Petty had the audience sing along as the band played.”

Robbins was honored to have been able to experience Petty’s final show.

“When I found out it was his last show, I felt happy that I was able to experience it before he passed. The best way to describe the feeling was a mixture of closure with sadness. My mom and I both agreed that we have to see these legends live before they get too old.”

Emiliano Bolado, 26, musician, also attended the show at the Hollywood Bowl with some of his family. He said Petty and the band’s music helped fans pull through many situations. “It might seem wrong to mourn one person’s death against the countless lives lost recently due to tragedies worldwide. But to me, as a musician, it shows the power of music to get through the good times as well as the bad. And I’m thankful to the music makers like Tom Petty for creating something beautiful and honest that can reach people and give them hope and uplift them in troubled times.”

Petty’s music was and still is a driving force in American art influencing a staggering number of artists that we love today. His influence will not be forgotten by his death; his music will always be seen as the music for the working American and will live on forever.

Petty will not only be remembered by his legions of fans but also the artists that he influenced and the sounds that he helped cultivate. Petty is survived by his wife, brother, two daughters, stepson, grandchild, and the millions of people and radio stations that won’t ever stop playing his songs.