On October 2, 2017, we awoke to the news of a devastating mass shooting in Las Vegas. At noon the very same day, news breaks that rock icon, Tom Petty had suffered a massive heart attack and is in the hospital. For the remainder of the day, after being declared brain dead and taken off life support, it was a waiting game. Later that evening, official word came from his family, and Tony Dimitriades, his longtime manager, of his passing. Stating, the legendary rocker “died peacefully at 8:40 pm surrounded by family, his bandmates and friends” after suffering cardiac arrest. This news was a gut punch to millions of people around the world.
Tom Petty, born in Gainesville Florida in 1950 would have only been 67 years old, on his next birthday, October 20, only days from his death. In his short 66+ years, he has given the world of music so much and left a legacy behind that spans four decades. He has left the world a vast library of music from his bands, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Mudcrutch, and The Traveling Wilburys.
Northern California was lucky in 2017, as we had the opportunity to see Tom Petty live twice. Once at BottleRock Napa in May and the last time was on his 40th anniversary tour in August at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. I was fortunate enough to have seen both. At Bottle Rock Napa he headlined on Saturday night and rocked it out of the ballpark with the huge audience. He was predictably Petty, giving the fans all the hits, one after the other. In August at The Greek in Berkeley it was definitely a more intimate venue and the show felt warmer. He was obviously enjoying his time on stage, even though the next couple shows had to be postponed due to “laryngitis.” He postponed the next shows and made good the following week. No fans were disappointed from what I heard. I went to the first show and to my knowledge there were no signs of a weaker voice or sore throat at that performance, but perhaps Petty lived by the saying, “the show must go on” and he gave it his all, not letting on he wasn’t well.
He went on to belt out 19 songs in full form, starting with “Rocking Around with You” and ending with “American Girl.” Brilliant performance…in true Petty style. The band was phenomenal, Mike Campbell, his lifelong friend, and Heartbreaker guitarist, was extraordinary and flawless.
For me, the gig was incredible as Tom Petty always is. The first time I saw him perform live was in 1987 in London opening up for Bob Dylan. He blew me away then and he blew me away 30 years later in August, just 6 short weeks before his untimely death. Pettys’ last show on September 25 at The Hollywood Bowl, marked the last of this 40th anniversary tour, only a week before the massive heart attack that would take his life.
Tom Pettys’ death is being felt by many thousands of people around the globe and his absence will leave a hole in the world of music. Though he, and his vast legacy of music, will forever remain in the hearts of millions.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Setlist at Greek Theatre, Berkeley, CA, August 30, 2017.
Rockin’ Around (With You)
Mary Jane’s Last Dance
You Don’t Know How It Feels
I Won’t Back Down
Don’t Come Around Here No More
It’s Good to Be King
Crawling Back to You
Learning to Fly
Yer So Bad
I Should Have Known It
Runnin’ Down a Dream
You Wreck Me
Article and photographs by Cheryl Alterman (altermanimages.com)