“You and I will meet again, when we are least expecting it, one day in some far off place, I will recognize your face, I won’t say goodbye my friend. For you and I will meet again”

Thomas Earl Petty a born Libran quit the theatre of life on October 2, 2017. A celebrated American rock musician, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer was the lead singer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers gyrated California rock a heritage of durable classic hits.

Sixty Six is an odd number, nowhere close to death, yet his heart stopped pumping the beats he lived to live, loses the battle to Cardiac Arrest, Los Angeles.

Eldest of two sons of Kitty (Avery) and Earl Petty he fell in for rock and roll music at age ten when he met Elvis Presley, the king of pop. It was the summer of 1961 Petty was invited to come down and watch the shoot of Presley’s Follow the dream; on his return was greeted by his friend Keith Harben and soon swapped his Wham-O slingshot for a collection of Elvis.

The early years of struggle

Petty launched his new band known as the Epics, later to evolve into Mudcrutch featuring Mike Campbell the guitarist and song recorder and keyboardist Benmont Tench but their recordings went unnoticed by the mainstream audience. Their only single, “Depot Street“, was released in 1975 by Shelter Records, but was a total failure.

The Mudcrutch split up didn’t go well with Petty propelling him to pursue a solo career. Roughing up a roller coaster journey of rock music. Petty patched up a voice of enmeshing the high and low of classic rock and roll.

His songs

His songs had a vision of universal American feeling so were his other hits. Never triggered any ill feeling, didn’t isolate either but till his death each of his classic rocks proved its worth time and again to be appreciated globally.

But like all the other superstars he too was ridiculed by people naming him a checker-board nightmare of cannibalism. Those were the same guys whom he had rendezvous with “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” the 1985 hit that stands as an outlier in his catalogue yet can be ranked in influence not far behind “American Girl” or “Free Fallin’

 George Kot from Chicago Tribunes reports: Petty wrote dozens of classic songs to list a few:

“Fooled Again (I Don’t Like It),” from “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers” (1976): The eeriest, nastiest track on the band’s debut

“I Need to Know,” from “You’re Gonna Get It” (1978)

“Louisiana Rain,” from “Damn the Torpedoes” (1979)

“A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me),” from “Hard Promises” (1981)

“The Best of Everything,” from “Southern Accents” (1985)

 Chicago Tribune further reports:

When Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers toured to promote their 1985 release “Southern Accents,” the Confederate flag became a part of the marketing and appeared onstage.

It’s a decision that, two decades later, Petty would call “downright stupid.”

I wish I had given it more thought,” Petty wrote in Rolling Stone in 2015, just as South Carolina decided to lower the Confederate flag from its statehouse grounds, bringing praise from some rockers and criticism from others who used it during their acts. Petty said in 1985 that when writing the opening track, “Rebel,” he was “just thinking about the average young guy down there who is brought up in this tradition that tells you, ‘this is the way it has always been and the way it should be.‘ I’m not just talking about jobs, but a whole way of living.”

I was born a rebel, down in Dixie/On a Sunday morning,” goes the chorus. “Yeah with one foot in the grave/And one foot on the pedal, I was born a rebel.”

 Life was not kind on him.

It’s most natural we show the world our happy days but his was not a fairy tale story, it had a story of tremendous heartache, had an abusive childhood under a torturous father, married twice, the earlier one his childhood sweetheart Jane Benyo. As a typical Rock star Petty soon fell prey to drug abuse so was his wife Benyo who got hooked to alcohol and drugs to combat the loneliness while Petty was off for his performances. Two daughters were born out-of-wedlock and Jane gradually turned mentally ill ultimately leading to an abusive relationship and eventually divorce a tragic end to a marriage of 22 years.

During this abusive relationship with Jane he himself became a heroin addict and a severe victim of depression till he found Dana his guiding star at a rock concert in Texas who stood by him till his last breath.

Petty also had a brief acting career.

During his short life span he received several awards. To name a few:

  • In April 1996, Petty received the UCLA’s George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement following Golden note award by American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
  • A feather to the cap of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was added in 1999 as a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their benefaction to the recording industry.
  • After years of brawls and drudgery finally New York acknowledged Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in to the world of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but that was not before December 2001.
  • A living legend Petty’s quotes echoes “Go after what you really love and find a way to make that work for you and then you’ll be a happy person”.

No matter how far our heroes go away Classic Rock never dies. Let the music be your master, well fuck; what I am supposed to be impressed? You are just another set of bones to lay to rest. Guess it’s time to say goodnight. Hope you had a really good time, good time. But I will soon forget the color of your eyes and you will forget mine, let the mystery remain. Don’t trust the eyes, sometimes eyes lie.

Society has traditionally always tried to find scapegoats for its problems. Well here I am – The classic Rock

~ Marilyn Manson – 1996

Pic Credit: bbc.co.uk

Also Read: Remembering Tom Beach Alter by Rimli Bhattacharya

Rimli Bhattacharya is a First class gold medalist in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology, an MBA in supply chain management and is engaged with a corporate sector. She writes for Several magazines, Times of India, Engineering Journals, Blog spots and is also an Indian Classical Dancer. She is based out of Mumbai. Rimli has been awarded a Star Blogger by team Bonobology for her essay “Running a solo Marathon”.

The views expressed are author’s own.

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