“What’s changed these days is that the man who approaches me on the street is more or less thanking me for a body of work—the soundtrack to his life, as a lot of them say. And that’s a wonderful feeling. It’s all an artist can ask.” – Tom Petty, Esquire magazine
Petty died unexpectedly in October 2017. The hole in the world he left is still smoldering. Tom Petty was one of those ageless guys, he never seemed to change much. Every couple of years he would drop an album of some sort: Heartbreakers, Mudcrutch or a solo project. Then a tour. In forty years, we were used to it; we even took it for granted. It was only after his tragic death that we learned he had a fractured hip that had turned into a full break. He toured with the injury.
Recently, watching Echo in the Canyon, there was Tom Petty, in a featured role. In fact, the film is dedicated to him. He looked so healthy, like a Tom Petty that would be around for a long time. But it wasn’t to be.
“Good songs stay written. Good records stay made.” Petty “made a lot of great music, enough to carry people forward,” Bruce Springsteen told Rolling Stone.
In the last years of his life, Petty had a lot going on. Although the Heartbreakers released their last album in 2014, his other group, Mudcrutch, released their second album in 2016, and completed a short tour. Petty and the Heartbreakers toured the U.S. in 2017, finishing not long before he died.
Since then, his estate released a greatest hits collection and a 4-disc set of unreleased music. It was known that Petty had intended to release a 2-disc Wildflowers set.
If you haven’t seen Runnin’ Down a Dream (2007), the 4-hour documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, it is quite a look inside Petty and his band. In the world of rock music, there are few as genuine and hardwire-valued as Petty. At great person cost, he took on his conglomerate record company, and stood up to their pricing system. For a concert ticket, his prices were fair, and he gave everything he had on stage. Touring with a hip injury was admirable, but not without risk. I saw that 40th Anniversary Tour and it was more than worth the price of admission.
I have no idea what exists in the Tom Petty vault. A smart guy, who documented his legacy, I’m sure his estate will mine the unreleased, live and alternate versions of his work. I would expect his older CDs to be remastered and contain demos and other goodies. Everyone does this. Are there concerts in the vault, like The Rolling Stones have been releasing? Likely. We haven’t heard the last of Mr. Petty. I certainly hope not.
You and I will meet again
When we’re least expecting it
Somewhere in some far off place
I will recognize your face
I won’t say goodbye my friend
For you and I will meet again
Tom Petty, “You and I Will Meet Again”