pettyUsually, music brings me joy. But sometimes it feeds into my melancholy. As I was reading about how Tom Petty’s death is still a hard reminder for aging rockers about the downside of life on the road, I was reminded of that phenomenon.

Back in 2015, he acknowledged that he was a heroin addict in the ’90s, “something he had sliced out of Peter Bogdanovich’s four-hour documentary, 2007’s ‘Runnin’ Down a Dream.'”

How does a 50-year-old become a junkie? He talked about it to Warren Zanes in a biography, unauthorized only because Petty didn’t want to dictate what Zanes could or could not write

Addiction happened “when the pain becomes too much and you live in a world, in a culture, where people have reached in the direction of heroin to stop the pain. He’s a rock and roller. He had had encounters with people who did heroin, and he hit a point in his life when he did not know what to do with the pain he was feeling.”

Then in 2017, “Tom Petty was rushed to a hospital… in full cardiac arrest… Weeks later, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s report confirmed what many family members, friends and fans feared: Petty had accidentally overdosed.

“Among the combination of sedatives, anti-depressants and painkillers found in Petty’s system was the opioid fentanyl, the same drug on which Prince overdosed in 2016. According to his wife, Dana, Petty endured the pain of a fractured hip throughout a 40th-anniversary tour with his longtime band, the Heartbreakers.”

Here are three songs:

Gainesville, a new song with the Heartbreakers about his hometown area, about which he had mixed feelings.

Free Fallin’, the first song on my favorite Tom Petty album, the “solo” disc Full Moon Fever (1989)

Possibly my favorite. The End of the Line. I love the “happy accident” that was the Traveling Wilburys. On this track, Jeff Lynne, George Harrison, and Roy Orbison sing the choruses, and Petty sings the verses. In the video, Roy is recently deceased, as only his framed picture in a rocking chair appears. George, of course, died in 2001. With Petty gone, the song makes me wistful.

One Response to “Tom Petty: the End of the Line”

  • fillyjonk says:

    I remember hearing “cardiac arrest” first, and later on hearing it was caused by drug use, and I admit my reaction was “I didn’t really need to know that second fact.”

    I suppose one should assume most traveling musicians like that are tempted by drugs, but…somehow I can accept an “honest” heart attack (from it having worn out or some congenital issue) more comfortably than “drug use led to heart issues.”

    I heard “Free Fallin'” in the grocery store the other day (they let their 20-something workers pick the music) and was a little sad all over again.

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