Rock legend Tom Petty cut his final interview with the Los Angeles Times mere days before he died from cardiac arrest at the age of 66.
As the Los Angeles Times recalled, Tom Petty was “vibrant [and] full of enthusiasm” when he interviewed the Heartbreakers lead singer less than 48 hours after the band’s 40th-anniversary tour wrapped up at the Hollywood Bowl. Petty was clearly proud of his accomplishments as a musician and looking forward to spending time with his family, including his wife Dana, his two adult daughters, his stepson, and his 4-year-old granddaughter. Petty’s only noticeable health problem was a cracked hip he suffered shortly before the tour, which he was “finally addressing” at the time of the interview.
Referring to how 2017 had been so far for the Heartbreakers, Tom Petty said in his final interview that the current year has been “wonderful” for the band, which he felt had finally gotten the “big slap on the back” they never received in their four decades in the music business together. As recalled by the New York Times, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers didn’t get together exactly 40 years prior to this year’s anniversary tour; the band formed in 1975 in Los Angeles and released their self-titled debut album in 1976, with the single “Breakdown” becoming their first of many hits on the Billboard singles charts.
As the Los Angeles Times prepared for what turned out to be Tom Petty’s last interview, Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench quipped to writer Randy Lewis that he should “tell Tom we should get the band back together.” Lewis noted that the anniversary tour wasn’t supposed to be the end for the band of Gainesville, Florida, transplants that got started on the road to rock stardom all those decades ago. But in a comment that can now be considered foreboding in hindsight, Petty told Lewis that the only thing that would cause the Heartbreakers to disband would be the death of a member, or if someone in the band suffered a serious illness.
“If one of us went down, or if one of us died — God forbid — or got sick… We’re all older now… Then we’d stop. I think that would be the end of it, if someone couldn’t do it.”
Months earlier, Tom Petty cut another interview with Rolling Stone in December of 2016, hinting that the Heartbreakers’ anniversary tour would likely be his band’s last nationwide jaunt. This was due to the band’s advancing age, as well as Petty’s desire to spend more time with his granddaughter.
“It’s very likely we’ll keep playing, but will we take on 50 shows in one tour? I don’t think so. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was thinking this might be the last big one. We’re all on the backside of our sixties. I have a granddaughter now I’d like to see as much as I can. I don’t want to spend my life on the road. This tour will take me away for four months. With a little kid, that’s a lot of time.”
In his final interview, Tom Petty noted that most people in their mid-to-late 60s are no longer working, and that playing music helps keep him looking and feeling younger than most men his age. And while he stressed that neither he nor the Heartbreakers had immediate plans of retiring, he added once again that he wasn’t sure if another long tour would be possible in the future.
Talking about his recent health issues, which included the aforementioned cracked hip, as well as a bout with laryngitis in August, Tom Petty said he was “freaked out” by the fact he ended up missing some time on the road, something he said hadn’t happened in “many, many years.”
“My doctor said ‘I don’t think you’ve been sick — I’m looking in my records — in over 17 years, since I’ve seen you sick with anything. And I’m always like, ‘I don’t get sick.’ But, [stuff] happens.”
As the Los Angeles Times’ Lewis opined, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers would have likely had more chances to share their musical gifts had their leader not died unexpectedly on Monday. But he added that the main takeaway from what turned out to be Tom Petty’s last interview is the fact that he believed in rock ‘n’ roll in its purest form until the very end, believing that rock music is and was always about “moving people and changing the world.”
[Featured Image by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]