Unfortunately, the string of music legends lost continues. In the past 18 months, the world has lost icons such as David Bowie, Prince and Glenn Frey. Now, Tom Petty has been added to that list. Petty rose to prominence in the mid 1970s and showed incredible longevity, as he released music all the way up until his death. With hits such as “American Girl,” “Learning to Fly” and “Free Fallin’,” Petty consistently packed arenas for over 40 years.
The year was 2008, and I sat in front of the television, anticipating for the first time that I can remember the greatest North American sporting event, the Super Bowl. The game turned out to be an instant classic, but the halftime show was the stuff of legends. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were performing, a new favorite of mine after my brother had recently exposed me to the wonders of classic rock. The explosion of red lights put me in a trance as Petty and his band mates rocked the crowd at the University of Phoenix Stadium on that February night. I sat in a trance as I watched him bring a crowd of over 70,000 fans to their feet. The fans singing in unison were just about as loud as Petty himself, as they belted out the chorus to “I Won’t Back Down.”
As a seven-year-old kid, sports and music were the center of my universe. This culmination of the two was a completely new experience for me, and it is one that I will not soon forget. As Eli Manning rocked the sporting world by upsetting the Goliath-like Patriots on a last-minute drive, Tom Petty shook my musical foundation with a performance unlike anything I had ever seen before. Closing with “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” this 13-minute set fascinated me to a point where it was all I could think about. Tom Petty may have departed from this world, but his music and his legacy will last for years to come.