Rock legend Tom Petty passed away at his Malibu home on Oct. 2

By Caroline Favret, ’18

An iconic musician and frontman for the Heartbreakers, Tom Petty passed away at 66 years old. He suffered cardiac arrest at his home, and was unable to be revived at the UCLA hospital.

This 2002 Rock Hall of Fame inductee leaves a legacy sure to be remembered by music fans everywhere as he has defined rock and roll on the radio. He played smooth California rock infused with his Southern roots, making him a household name. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers started to gain momentum in the early 1980s, going platinum with Damn the Torpedos in 1979 and Hard Promises in 1981.

Full Moon Fever in 1989, however, is debatably his most famous work with hits “I Won’t Back Down”, “Free Fallin” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” This solo album made him wildly popular going into the 1990s.  

His second solo album, Wildflowers, ushered in yet another generation of fans.  Throughout the next 20 years, Petty put out dark song after dark song, as his heartbreak and troubles in his personal life leaked into his music. However, hits such as “Room at the Top” and “Saving Grace” still made it on the radio.

Petty had just finished up his 40th anniversary tour with the Heartbreakers in 2017, showing his unshaken ability to sell out an arena. Their most recent album Hypnotic Eye (2014) was their first to reach a major milestone: Number One on the Billboard 200.

In a 2006 interview with Esquire, Petty said “As you’re coming up, you’re recognized song for song or album for album. What’s changed these days is that the man who approaches me on the street is more or less thanking me for a body of work – the soundtrack to his life, as a lot of them say. And that’s a wonderful feeling. It’s all an artist can ask.”

Whether one was alive for much of his career or not, Petty’s down-to-earth rock music has undoubtedly touched many. UAHS senior Lauren Sengelmann has inherited some of her dad’s taste in music, and reflects on why she personally listens to Petty.

“Free Fallin’ is my favorite song because I grew up listening to it, and it reminds me of when my siblings and I were young and would sing it,” Sengelmann said.

Young and old alike have enjoyed Petty from the time he was with the Heartbreakers, to the Traveling Wilburys, to his solo career.