The Raider Review

Legend Lost: The Voice of Tom Petty

Photo by Larry Philpot

Photo by Larry Philpot

Kendolyn Davis, Staff Writer

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In an age where the genre of rock and roll was breaking through the surface of music and rapidly making its way across the United States, Tom Petty’s voice rose above many others. 

On October 2nd, 2017, the Southern rock legend died peacefully among family and friends. Born in Gainesville, Florida in 1950, Petty spent much of his adolescent years idolizing artists such as Elvis Presley and The Beatles, while developing his guitar-playing skills. He made the decision at age seventeen to drop out of high school and pursue music – a decision that would eventually prove to be a significant turning point in the young singer’s life. He formed a band named Mudcrutch and became lead singer, a role that fostered his exceptional skill at songwriting. Although Mudcrutch disbanded shortly after its first single failed to sell records, Petty went on to form a new band: “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.” It would be this band that would come to define Petty’s everlasting legacy.

Throughout the decades, Petty produced hit after hit without fail. The hits “American Girl” and “Breakdown” were both included on the Heartbreakers’ first self-titled album, with the former becoming hugely celebrated decades from its release. “American Girl” captivated hearts immediately, giving fans a light-hearted and lively version of Petty, with lyrics written by the singer himself. The Heartbreakers’ third album “Damn the Torpedoes” went to No. 2 on the charts, with hit singles “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Refugee”.

As well as owning the role as lead vocalist of the Heartbreakers’, Petty managed to sustain an immensely successful solo career as well. In 1989, the hit “Free Fallin’” would become Petty’s most- if not second-most-celebrated single ever made by him. As the song opens up with its signature guitar strums, Petty’s voice takes the listener on a heartfelt journey through the lyrics before shamelessly belting out the chorus with profound passion. Petty’s other solo hit, “I Won’t Back Down”, would also become one of his more well-known singles. Here the perfect union is made between singer and song, as Petty’s voice steadily evolves into the single driving force of the track.

As decades passed along with various musical trends and genres, Petty’s voice remained one of the powerful, determined voices that continued to define the rock and roll genre for years to come. The significant amount of passion and soul that Petty blended into his music seemed almost palpable, an ability that many singers continuously aim to achieve. As an artist, Petty managed to challenge his music as well as his voice in many ways. And through it all, Petty managed to never lose his edge. It is safe to say a part of rock and roll has left along with Petty, one that is unlikely to ever be replaced.



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Legend Lost: The Voice of Tom Petty