On Monday night, Tom Petty died at the age 66. Here’s what I wrote in my appreciation:
For the past 20 minutes I’ve been staring at my computer and trying to think of how to sum up Tom Petty’s impact on rock and roll, American pop culture, and the lives of millions upon millions of listeners. Forgive me if this seems like an impossibly tall order. I once compared Petty to tap water and concrete, the sort of sturdy, reliable fixtures that have always been a part of your life, and seemingly always will be a part of your life, so you never fully appreciate how they make your life immeasurably better. Tom Petty’s music truly achieved the ubiquity of a public utility — you can hear it in bars, cars, supermarkets, sports stadiums, gas stations, movies, TV shows, and pretty much everywhere else, even now, decades after it was originally recorded. His songs are in the atmosphere.
If you love rock and roll, losing Tom Petty is like losing a former president. To help me work through my feelings, I recorded a special “emergency” episode of the podcast with my friend and podcast producer Derek to discuss the man’s career and his impact on pop culture. We also talk about our favorite Tom Petty albums, and offer suggestions to new fans on where to start digging into the man’s catalogue.