When rock and roll legend Tom Petty passed away tragically and unexpectedly on October 2, 2017, music lovers everywhere were heartbroken. Petty’s death was originally attributed to cardiac arrest, but when the coroner’s report was released, it was revealed that Tom died from an accidental overdose of prescription pain medication.
Years of touring and heavy smoking had taken a toll on Petty’s body, and during the 40th-anniversary tour for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Tom suffered a fracture of his hip. Petty had intended to make this his final major tour and despite his injury, he was determined to fulfill every scheduled date for the sake of fans.
The tour concluded on September 25, 2017, with an inspired night at the Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood, California, and Tom returned home to rest before surgery to repair his hip. Sadly, one week later, the music world was stunned into silence with the news of Tom Petty’s death. He was 66-years-old.
While Tom’s name came first in the billing, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was never just about him. They were a band of brothers and a musical family of world-class musicians who shared a love for making great records and performing live for their devoted fans.
Fans of the band had been wondering what the future held for The Heartbreakers and after seven weeks of silence, Mike Campbell finally spoke about Petty’s passing on Nov 22, 2017.
“Your condolences have been a life saver for me. This has been so surprising and devastating for me and the band as I know it has been for you. It will take a long time before I get over this. I will carry on for myself and all of you who love the music. I feel your love and am forever grateful for your support all these years. Remember, without you, all of our devoted fans, there would have been no Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Tom will always be here on my right shoulder urging me on to keep the dream alive and inspiring me with his spirit. He is a one of a kind and I will be eternally grateful for the years we rode together and the songs we wrote together. Bless you all from the bottom of my heart.”
Recently, Mike Campbell announced that he would be joining Fleetwood Mac as the lead guitarist for their upcoming world tour. After creative differences with the band led to the firing of Lindsey Buckingham, Mike got the call. He shared the news on his Facebook page.
“Though I was sad to hear Lindsey Buckingham is no longer with Fleetwood Mac, I am honored and excited to join the band. Lindsey is one of my favorite musical artists. A true genius at songwriting and guitar playing. I intend to honor his songs while at the same time bring my musicality to the band.”
Keyboard wizard Benmont Tench was another founding member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Tench also broke his silence on November 22, 2017, with an impassioned statement to fans of the band.
“I’m sure I don’t need, nor do I really know how, to tell you how awful these past weeks have been. I know you all feel it too.
I’ve had the opportunity to hear from & speak with many of you, both in person in Los Angeles & New York, and through social media. You have been a great source of comfort.
This band, and the extended family Tom gathered around him, is a strong & loving group of people, and we’re all very tight, and all leaning on each other. Love will certainly see us all through this.
For me, I just want to do what I’ve done since I was eighteen or nineteen years old: take what I’ve learned over these years, from Tom, about persistence, pursuit of & insistence on artistic excellence, and a certain kind of personal integrity, and continue to apply it going forward, in whatever ‘forward’ might be. Maybe each of us, of you, can do the same.
And, of course, never forget to turn up to ten and let that sucker blast.”
Several of the Heartbreakers played together again when Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, and Steve Ferrone appeared at Steven Stills’ annual Light Up the Blues benefit for Autism Speaks on January 27, 2018. The three musicians played two songs in memory of Tom with Mike’s side project, The Dirty Knobs, and they joined Stills and Patti Smith in the finale.
Drummer Steve Ferrone gave Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers fans some welcome news for the future on Feb 25, 2018, when he discussed the possibility of more recordings from the band.
“There’s probably like six or seven albums that just haven’t been released yet. There’s a live album we recorded. Both stadium shows that we did last year. When I first joined the band, we played up at Fillmore West. We did a month run up there. And there’s an album that’s sitting there. There’ll be a couple of albums sitting there from that. There’s a whole new album that he finished up with outtakes from Wildflowers. That was the first album I started recording with the Heartbreakers.”
The outstanding musicians who spent decades playing with Tom Petty will certainly perform again, but the impact Tom had on their music and lives will never be forgotten. Perhaps Ferrone summed it all up best with his simple and straightforward tribute to Tom.
“[Tom] Petty was unique. He was really unique as far as being an artist, and a human being.”