Sunday marked the five year anniversary of the unexpected passing of one of rock music’s most iconic figures and one of the greatest songwriters in American history: Mr. Tom Petty. Having written some of the most enduring anthems in modern popular music, including hits like “Free Fallin’”, “Runnin’ Down a Dream”, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, and countless others, Petty’s musical legacy was assuredly secured long before the news of his untimely passing began to make headlines on that fateful day in 2017.
The Sunday anniversary of the occasion saw fans and fellow musicians sharing memories of Petty and swapping stories of what the timeless work he created has meant to them in their own creative journeys.
Sunday was also a day that saw an announcement from the Tom Petty estate indicating plans from the University of Florida in Petty’s hometown of Gainesville to designate Saturday, October 15th as the first inaugural Tom Petty day.
“To commemorate Tom’s life, the University of Florida in his hometown of Gainesville has designated this year’s UF x LSU game as the first inaugural Tom Petty Day on October 15,” read the announcement. “UF plans to celebrate Tom Petty Day for years to come.”
Upon Petty’s passing in 2017, the University Athletic Association began the tradition at Gators games of playing and singing along to one of the singer’s many anthems of resolve and perseverance, “I Won’t Back Down.”
“Perhaps a new tradition will be born,” said University of Florida Athletics Association Senior Writer Scott Carter when first reporting the tribute just a few days after Petty’s death. Right he was, as today, five years later, the Florida Gators’ website features a reminder of the upcoming inaugural Tom Petty Day, along with a graphic of Petty and the caption, “This marks the fifth anniversary of ‘I Won’t Back Down’ being played at the end of the third quarter and UF will be celebrating the Gainesville native all day long.”
It was also reported during the announcement of the inaugural celebration, that the Tom Petty Estate would be collaborating with the University of Florida on a capsule collection.
The collection will stand to benefit local charities throughout the city of Gainesville, with all proceeds generated by the Tom Petty Estate through the Tom Petty Day x Florida collection being earmarked to benefit Family Promise and Kids Count.
Tom Petty’s musical aspirations began when he was a boy in Gainesville, having been inspired by Elvis and then by The Beatles to pursue his passion for creative arts.
An early group of musicians eventually became the band Mudcrutch, which featured fellow Florida natives Benmont Tench and future right-hand man, Mike Campbell. Both men would join Petty in the formation of The Heartbreakers, which would become his primary collaborative and musical hub over the course of his career.
Immense success with The Heartbreakers throughout the 1970s was followed by further work with the group in the 1980s, but also with the musical contemporaries and elder statesmen George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Bob Dylan who, along with Petty himself, would comprise Traveling Wilburys.
The tail end of the 1980s saw the release of Petty’s first solo album 1989’s Full Moon Fever, recorded with Jeff Lynne and Mike Campbell. The album brought about a mid-career resurgence of sorts for the songwriter, who enjoyed the success of aforementioned hits such as “Free Fallin’” and “I Won’t Back Down.”
Petty’s consistency as a songwriter could not be swayed, and arguably some of the most enjoyable albums of his career saw release in the final decade or so of his life.
These include highlights such as 2010’s Mojo and 2014’s Hypnotic Eye, recorded with The Heartbreakers, and his final solo effort, 2006’s highly underrated and aptly titled Highway Companion, recorded in collaboration with the Full Moon Fever production lineup of Petty himself, Jeff Lynne, and Mike Campbell.
The University of Florida will honor the musician with the first inaugural Tom Petty Day on Saturday, October 15th, 2022.
Feature Photo: Sterling Munksgard / Shutterstock.com
First Inaugural Tom Petty Day Set For October 15 article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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