In his lifetime, Tom Petty sold more than 80 million records. He was one of the highest-selling musicians of all time, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a lifelong fighter for artists to have control over and freedom in their work. He was a composer, a personal influencer, and a bright and prolific creator. On October 2, 2017, Petty suffered cardiac arrest in his home in Malibu, California and died later that night.
Today, the staff of Redhawk Radio remembers Tom Petty.
Jason Tulloch | General Manager
Before you think this tribute to “Free Falling” is a sappy rendition on how the song changed my life, take a breath, it's not. One of Tom Petty's most well known songs, “Free Falling” obviously has the traits of a classic and will go down in history as one of his best. Less known is the impact the song has had on the life of the average American teen, the guys who pick up a guitar and just want to play. “Free Falling” is that go to song, as the simple chords allow any amateur to sound like a rock star. In my short time pursuing "The Dream," I may have naively used the song to attempt to impress a girl or two. Cheers Tom.
Nicolae Sadovnic | Marketing Director
“Rockin’ Around (With You)” - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
This song is everything. You have the chorus reminiscent of beatles-era psychedelic rock n roll. You have a driving beat and palm-muted guitar chords of 80’s dance punk. Then, synths(!) and Tom’s punky chants foreshadowing the emergence of new wave. The year? 1976. 41 years later, we say our goodbyes to a man still omnipresent in influence.
Marisa Vesel | Event Planner
"End of the Line” by Traveling Wilburys
Alright alright, I know. This song isn’t solo Tom Petty or Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, but it is the Traveling Wilburys—a musical supergroup composed of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. “End of the Line” never fails to make me smile; it reminds me of sunset road trips with my friends, vacations at the beach with my family, and just enjoying the little moments in life with the people I love the most. The line “I’m glad to be here, just happy to be alive,” really captures how I feel whenever I hear this song. My friend saw Tom in concert over the summer and told me that he was smiling the entire time; truly happy to be alive. For you Tom, thanks for making the world a better place.
Meg Matthias | Senior Editor
Though this choice may be influenced by my recent film studies unit on Western cinema, I promise that I like “Two Gunslingers” for more reasons than just my recent #mood. The refrain “I’m taking control of my life/I’m taking control of my life/I’m taking control of my life” works so poignantly and strangely with the narrative that I felt the need to write it out all three times. The song follows a weird and almost alternate-universe-Western storyline that works as an example of what I think Tom Petty is one of the best at: forming a story that is very specific to its subject but very personal to the listener at the same time.
Lauren DeMarks | Designer and Website Manager
My taste in music was heavily influenced by what my mom listened to on the two-and-a-half hour drives we took to visit my grandparents in the Ohio countryside when I was younger. In my mom’s odd mix of old country, classic rock, and folk music, I heard a lot of Tom Petty. While I dreaded that long car ride as a child, I grew up to appreciate the times I got to see my grandparents at their small house in the country. “Wildflowers”’s folky influence and gentle lyrics remind me of those times. I remember listening to this song, looking out the car window at the endless cornfield that is Ohio, and pretending that I was looking at an endless field of flowers instead. That’s cheesy, I know, but it made me happy then. And while this song sounds different from some of this other better known hits, like “American Girl” and “Free Fallin,” it carries the same message of living in the moment and being free.
Now, the song’s opening lyrics feel like a perfect tribute to Tom. “You belong among the wildflowers/You belong in a boat out at sea/Sail away, kill off the hours/You belong somewhere you feel free.”
You can also read Music Director Rebecca Sowell’s memories of writing an email that may or may not have inspired Tom Petty to release a new album, plus her childhood of listening to his radio show, here.