Remembering Tom Petty, the musician who made America smile

He created a universal, authentic, and accessible rock and roll experience that made you feel just a little less alone

Tom Petty, 1980.
(Image credit: AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo)

It's difficult to name any artists that had monster pop relevance in each of the musically and culturally seminal years of 1976, 1985, 1989, and 1994, but Tom Petty can boast such a claim. He was rock and roll's last great angry hippie, singing about peace and love while pumping fists of rage at the same time. He died Monday night at the age of 66, and will be remembered as one of rock's most prolific hitmakers.

Petty created straight, unpretentious rock and roll that was always of its time. With wispy blonde hair draped over a hang dog expression, he was lyrically inventive, a living jukebox of earworm catchy melodies. He and his Heartbreakers were a rock and roll force for 40 years — an anniversary they celebrated with a tour of packed arenas concluding at the Hollywood Bowl just 2 weeks ago.

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