Tom Petty should have been celebrating his 67th birthday today. Instead, we are left to remember him. My old hometown, Austin, proclaimed today “Tom Petty Day,” and that sent me reeling back through the years of hearing his music, so I figure you deserve a spin around Memory Lane as well.
Breakdown was the first tune of his I heard, and I can remember when and where, and I’m pretty sure who with. I was visiting out in the Bay Area in fall of ’77, and my buddy, Marty, (I think it was Marty) was driving us from San Francisco back across the Bay Bridge to Berkeley when this tune came on the radio. Both of us got quiet — a rarity if you know either of us.
Tom soon showed us how to have some real fun with the emerging field of music videos — this is still one of the trippipest ones out there.
There’s way too many great Tom Petty songs to do justice to all of his bands and phases, but I have to post this performance pairing him with Stevie Nicks.
I only saw him perform live once, at the 2006 Austin City Limits Festival. Rain interrupted his Sunday evening set, and tired at the end of the festival and leery of getting wet waiting for a restart that might not happen, I started home. Of course, then, the rain stopped and the band cranked back up so I heard the closing tunes from afar as I climbed the hill up to our house above Zilker Park.
Sun Radio will be playing that show this evening in honor of Tom’s birthday. You can listen to Sun Radio worldwide here (click the “Listen” button) at 7pm Central, so drop in for some of what I heard and some of what I missed.
The day Tom died, this song kept running through my mind. Even now, I hear it whenever I start to think about him, so here it is.
Finally, Tom Petty’s death hit hard across a broad range of people I know because it always rang so true. Last weekend at this year’s ACL Fest, the Barton Hills Choir played tribute to Tom at the “Austin Kiddie Limits” stage, ably aided by David Grissom (Allman Brothers, Dixie Chicks, Bob Dylan have also enjoyed David’s guitar support).
The torch passes on and rock & roll will never die!