He Won’t Back Down

I didn’t see Tom Petty when he visited the Ford Center May 16, 2013. Because of that, the late rocker joins two of my favorite musicians — Warren Zevon and David Bowie — who I saw perform live just once before they died. Of course, that alone is fortunate and not everyone measures their affinity for a musician by the number of performances seen live.

I saw Petty, who was born Oct. 20, 1950, and died unexpectedly on Oct. 2, 22 years ago at Roberts Stadium, on Sept. 21, 1995. As for singer-songwriter-musician Warren Zevon, who’s been gone since 2003, my husband and I saw him at the legendary Phoenix Hill Tavern in Louisville in 1988. Bowie, who died in January 2016, visited Deer Creek (now Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center) in Indianapolis for his Sound & Vision tour in 1995. The concert was my birthday present.

But back to Petty, where I’ll conclude this three-post series on my favorite musicians who died this year. A recurring memory of college is of watching Petty’s iconic Alice in Wonderland themed 1985 video for his hit, “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” in the lobby of Western Kentucky University’s Poland Hall.

Naturally, Indiana girls loved Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.”

She grew up in a Indiana town

Had a good lookin’ mama who never was around

But she grew up tall and she grew up right

With them Indiana boys on an Indiana night.

In 2006 with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, Petty talked about being inspired to form a band after seeing The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan show in 1964:

“I didn’t think you could just become a rock and roll singer. I didn’t see how it could happen, because you needed to be in a movie and have the music appear on the beach and stuff. … So when I saw The Beatles, it sort of hit me like a lightning bolt to the brain that, ‘Oh I see. … You have your friends and you all learn an instrument, and you’re a self-contained unit. This is brilliant, you know. … This looks like a great, great job to me.’”

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