A lot of people from all walks of life have expressed their shock, dismay, and sadness over the sudden and unexpected death of American rock icon Tom Petty a couple of weeks back. Of the few that have remained silent thus far are the members of his ever-faithful group The Heartbreakers. In a new profile of Petty for Rolling Stone, The Heartbreakers finally open up and speak about the devastating loss of their friend and leader.
“I’m just so sad to think that I’m not going to play those songs again,” guitarist Mike Campbell said. Of his last shows at the Hollywood Bowl, he added, “It was magical, it was spiritual. Everybody was so happy, especially Tom — full of glory and hope.” He also recalled the last time he spoke to Petty, beyond a “How are you doing?” backstage during that run.
During a flight from San Diego to L.A. “Tom got up and made a little speech,” the guitarist remembered. “Like, ‘This has been the best tour. You guys were great. We’re not going to do any more long tours like this, but we have a lot of stuff we’re gonna do, because this is the best the band has ever been.’ When he walked past me I put my arm out, I pulled him close to me and said, ‘I’m so proud of you. I know your leg has been killing you. You’ve been up there like a soldier, man.’ We had a nice hug and said we loved each other.”
Benmont Tench, the group’s imitable pianist was equally as dismayed. “He was just kicking ass and we had found another level of playing as a band. There was a depth of soul coming through.” Adding, “I figured I’d get a call in a month or two: ‘Tom wants to get together and jam some sh*t out.’ ”
Those close to him also revealed that after celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Heartbreakers, he was in the midst of putting together a deluxe package of his seminal album Wildflowers, a record that he intended to take out on the road at some point down the line. “That would have been smaller-scale, away from the hits,” Campbell said. “Plans for that somehow evolved into ‘It’s the 40th year. Let’s do this tour first.’ ” His manager, Tony Dimitriades recalled that, “He asked me to call some people and see if they would come on the road and perform it with him. One — and she said yes immediately — was Norah Jones.”
Bruce Springsteen was also asked for his thoughts on his contemporary and said, “It’s sad that he’s gone, but it was nice to be alive in his lifetime.” Adding, “Good songs stay written. Good records stay made. They are always filled with the promise and hope and life essence of their creator…Tom made a lot of great music. Enough to carry people forward.”