Life Without Petty is a Real Heartbreaker

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Photo Credit: Robert Sebree

Tom Petty has been gone for a year now. Simply writing that sentence still feels weird to me.

I’m old enough to have experienced the passing of far too many of my musical idols, but some of them cut deeper than others (David Bowie was a huge one for certain).

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I was asked to eulogize Tom Petty when he passed and I kept putting it off, mainly because he was important enough to me that I really wanted to say something meaningful about the man. Here we are a year later and I find that I need to finally make an attempt to describe his impact on my musical taste, and indeed, on my life.

Photo Credit: Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

Tom Petty was great for a lot of reasons…he was a wonderful songwriter with a particular flair for inhabiting his songs with characters that his listeners cared about…he didn’t possess a classic “singer’s voice”, yet he used what he had with tremendous skill, in a word, passion.

He wasn’t a virtuoso on any instrument, yet he played as if his life depended on it. There was no “phoning it in” for Tom Petty; he was “all in” and that can’t be faked.

There is a wonderful documentary about the man, called Runnin’ Down A Dream, and it covers so much detail about his life.

Tom Petty with Bob Dylan, as part of the Traveling Wilburys.

I think every fan should watch it. It captures his spirit and his essence…and there will always be the music.

I’m not here to list favorite songs, but he did put out a Greatest Hits album that was just that…full of actual hit songs. Something I always loved about Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers was the discovery of all the gems on each album that weren’t hits.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

There was no filler. Every song had meaning to Tom. What I guess I’m trying to say is simply this…he cared. And we all knew it without question.

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