NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Remembering an icon

Oct. 2 marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Tom Petty

October 2, 2017, just one week after The Heartbreaker’s took their final bow at the Hollywood Bowl, Tom Petty would be found collapsed on the floor of his home in Malibu, CA.

It has nearly been a year since the unexpected passing of rock’n’roll icon and Heartbreaker’s frontman.

On September 25, 2017 fans packed into the sold out Hollywood Bowl to see Tom Petty and The Heartbreaker’s finish the last of their 40th anniversary tour;  a 53 concert filled nights that spread across forty-six cities both in the U.S and Europe.

Little did anybody know that the wildly display of the band’s second encore, closing with “American Girl”, that it was the golden haired, 66 year old’s last live performance.

What seemed like a flawless, monumental tour, in fact a tour that later would sweep the Pollstar Awards as Best Tour Of The Yearand Best Rock Tour Of The Year(beating out groups such as, U2, Metallica, and Bruno Mars), the five month reign was nothing but seamless backstage.

“…I knew Tom was having lots of problems — he needed to get to the stage by a golf cart — but once he got that guitar in his hands, he was amazing, and they were great shows,” reflected J.Geils lead singer and Boston resident, Peter Wolf, to The New Hampshire Union Leader.

Wolf, who’s progress with The J. Geils band worked on numerous occasions with The Heartbreakers, even turning down a hit that Tom had written for them (“Don’t Do Me Like That”), joined The Heartbreaker’s for their last two shows at Boston’s TD Garden as well as shows in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Forest Hills.   

Throughout the tour Petty was suffering with emphysema, knee pains, and a fractured hip which lead him, as Wolf recalled, to be carted around as well as given extra-medical attention.

Another close friend and music icon recalls touring with Petty last summer and his health conditions; Stevie Nicks.

Nicks stood at the podium accepting the award for MusiCare’s person/band of the year for Fleetwood Mac this past January, where she spoke about her beloved friend and the nights they played together during the past tour,  “He was not well, and he fought his way through that tour. He should’ve canceled, and he should’ve just gone home and gone to the hospital. But not Tom. He was gonna go down that river”.

Nicks may not have had a solo career if it wasn’t for Tom Petty and Heartbreaker’s guitarist Mike Campbell writing her first single featuring Petty’s vocals, “Stop Draggin My Heart Around”.

Stevie Nicks worked with Tom Petty on various occasions, lending vocals on Heartbreaker’s albums, and even now as Fleetwood Mac dumped Lindsey Buckingham earlier this year, Mike Campbell was picked up as lead guitarist.

In August Tom had postponed a few shows in Berkley due to laryngitis.

As many fans wished him to get well, the musician finished his tour triumphantly.

It was, as mentioned previously in the article, October that, in the words of Heartbreaker’s hit “Learning To Fly”, “The world got still”.

On October 1, 2017 the musician was told that his fractured hip had turned into a full on break.

It was shortly hours after this diagnosis that news broke that Tom Petty was in UCLA Medical Center on life support.

Early the next morning it had been reported that the musician, father, and friend was taken off life support, and passed away.

The question the world was wondering now, was why and howespecially after just seeing him come down from such a groundbreaking tour.

Petty was prescribed a mixture of medications before and throughout the tour to help aid his pain and health.

In a note released by his family and coroner a toxicity mixture of prescription painkillers, antidepressants, and sedatives were found in his system, which resulted in the musicians death.  His family released a statement on January 19, 2018, “We knew before the report was shared with us that he was prescribed various pain medications for a multitude of issues including Fentanyl patches and we feel confident that this was, as the coroner found, an unfortunate accident.”

The message continued, “As a family we recognize this report may spark a further discussion on the opioid crisis and we feel that it is a healthy and necessary discussion and we hope in some way this report can save lives.

“Many people who overdose begin with a legitimate injury or simply do not understand the potency and deadly nature of these medications”.

In wake of Petty’s passing memorials spread throughout the country, his music filled the airspace, as fans got together to mourn a man who’s music and story that has touched every living generation today.

Matt Andraktos of Northern Essex Community College’s program states the following when asked about Petty, “His music spoke to me in ways that music never spoke to me before! His passing was devastating. He was a talented dude, who was a music icon.” Andraktos continued to say, “ Tom Petty was an idol, an inspiration. He will always be loved by his fans. His music will be in mine and many, many other hearts forever.”

Liberal Arts major, Hannah Marden says, “It’s weird to me that he passed suddenly. I don’t know many of his songs now, but I feel like I grew up know his songs. For example, I remember hearing ‘Free Fallin’’ on the radio constantly while growing up, or announcements of his new albums. Every once in a while I’ll put him on my Spotify.”

Even now driving onto campus and walking to class one can sometimes  hear a car radio blasting a Tom Petty collaboration.

Whether it’s the early Gainesville days of his first band, Mudcrutch, his Heartbreaker days, solo career, or working in a Supergroup with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne, or even from the start and dominance of MTV music videos, and fighting for his fans against record companies, Tom Petty’s legacy is part of our everyday lives whether we like it or not.

It was released just on 27 September a Box set of unreleased tracks, remastered works, and live takes throughout Petty’s life called An American Treasure.

It was the release of this box set that spawned listening parties across the globe.

One year after his death and his music is still uniting people together and being played loud and proud.

It is never too late to join the Tom Petty Nation.