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Music

Tom Petty to receive posthumous PhD from hometown university

Late rock icon and Traveling Wilbury, Tom Petty, is set to receive a posthumous PhD from the University of Florida. The doctorate is in music and comes after the University’s board of trustees voted in favour of bestowing the late musician with the qualification. 

Famously, Petty was one of Florida’s favourite sons and was born and raised in Gainesville, where the University is located. He never attended the establishment, but, per a report in the Associated Press, he worked there as a groundskeeper prior to embarking on a musical career.

Petty’s pre-solo career band, Mudcrutch, were a staple of the Gainesville local scene in the early 1970s, but soon after they took off, he then moved to Los Angeles and there the outfit slowly metamorphosed into the worldbeaters we all loved, The Heartbreakers. It is not yet known when the doctorate will be awarded and if there will be a ceremony to mark the occasion. 

Tragically, Petty overdosed on a lethal mixture of opioids aged 66 in October 2017. It kicked off a wave of reappraisal for Petty’s work in his hometown, and the UoF honoured the songwriter by playing his classic ‘I Won’t Back Down’ during their American Football team, The Florida Gators’ following home game. This tribute has now become a tradition and is now sung at every home game.

Last month, the documentary Tom Petty: Somewhere You Feel Free – The Making Of Wildflowers was released. The 16mm footage takes a behind-the-scenes look at the making of his 1994 album Wildflowers. The film features interviews with Petty’s band and producer’s Rick Rubin and Mike Campbell. 

The documentary follows Petty during what is regarded as the most challenging period of his life, going through divorce, line-up and label changes, and paints what is perhaps the most candid image of the legendary rocker that we’ve ever seen. 

Watch the trailer for Tom Petty: Somewhere You Feel Free – The Making Of Wildflowers below.