Tom Petty was one of the most iconic musicians of all time. Whether it be with The Heartbreakers, Mudcrutch or even The Traveling Wilburys, he influenced everybody from Dave Grohl to The Strokes. A true hero of rock music, Petty forged classics songs such as ‘Don’t Do Me Like That’, ‘Refugee’ and ‘Free Fallin” while etching his name into the annals of history.
Aside from being an incredible musician and songwriter, Petty is also remembered for his staunch defence of artistic control and artistic freedom. He was not afraid to enter protracted disputes with labels, relentlessly fighting for the cause of artistic integrity much to the chagrin of his bank account.
In addition to this, in 1981, his objection to the “superstar pricing” of his album Hard Promises, the proposed price hike by label MCA, caused the record label to renege on their plans and certified Petty as a man of the people.
Furthermore, in 2006, some drew parallels between the Red Hot Chili Peppers single ‘Dani California’ and his 1993 track ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’. Showing himself to have a clear perception of the nature of music, and one with a very balanced and self-aware outlook, he discussed the concept of musical lawsuits.
He told Rolling Stone: “I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there. And a lot of rock ‘n’ roll songs sound alike. Ask Chuck Berry. The Strokes took ‘American Girl’ for their song ‘Last Nite’, and I saw an interview with them where they actually admitted it. That made me laugh out loud. I was like, ‘OK, good for you’…”
Petty appended: “If someone took my song note for note and stole it maliciously, then maybe (I’d sue). But I don’t believe in lawsuits much. I think there are enough frivolous lawsuits in this country without people fighting over pop songs.”
A man who established himself as a respected voice on a whole manner of subjects, in 1994, he let us into some more nuggets of wisdom. In the wake of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s tragic suicide, he sat down with The Sydney Morning Herald in New York. Discussing the year’s biggest musical news, he revealed himself to have been a massive fan of Cobain and Nirvana’s work. “I particularly loved his music,” he said. “When one of his songs came on it just hit you – it was so good and there won’t be any more.”
Petty then admitted just how sorry he was for Cobain’s passing: “I didn’t know him. I’m just sorry it happened. He was really my favourite and it just sort, of leaves a big gap.”
Explaining Cobain and Nirvana’s ground-shattering effect, he said: “I grew up in the ’60s, so it’s an old chant – and a boring one I’m sure for young people – but there was a lot of great music then and, although every decade brings in a few good things, I thought Kurt Cobain kicked the door open in a big way.”
In another interview, Petty called Nirvana “the most significant thing since The Beatles”. If that does not sum up his love for the Washington trio, we don’t know what does.
Tom Petty was Kurt Cobain’s biggest fan, who’d have thought it? Although musically they were very different, albeit both guitar heroes, their worldly views were very, very similar. It’s a real shame they never got to cross paths. Ironically, in the fallout surrounding Cobain’s death, that same year, Dave Grohl rejected an offer to play the drums in The Heartbreakers, opting to concentrate on his new Foo Fighters project – what a decision that turned out to be.
Watch Tom Petty talk about Nirvana below.