ASCAP Founders Award

Tom Petty

Tom Petty


Masterful Songwriter...
American Storyteller...
Rock and Roll Ambassador...
Whose Passion and Universal Appeal
Continue to Inspire Generations to Come

Tom Petty first fell for rock and roll when he met Elvis at 10 years old on a film set. As the story goes, he immediately traded his Wham-O slingshot for a stack of Elvis 45s and never looked back.

Since then Tom Petty has paid back his debt of inspiration in spades. He’s given rock and roll dozens of brilliant songs that first became radio staples, then became classics, then became secret knowledge that older siblings passed on to their younger siblings, and parents proudly passed on to their children. A poetic voice unique to his generation, he’s captured the inner lives of the characters who inhabit his songs. With remarkable economy and without bravado, Petty’s writing has consistently revealed the shadows and the light of American life in the 20th century and after. He has attracted collaborators from George Harrison and Bob Dylan to Del Shannon, Johnny Cash, and others. The artist that other artists point to when they talk about integrity, Tom Petty has given us a body of work that has become part of rock and roll’s hallowed canon. And he’s still adding to it.

Not long after Tom Petty and his celebrated band, the Heartbreakers, emerged in the late ‘70s, they found their way into the hearts of millions with such indelible songs as “Breakdown,” “American Girl,” “I Need to Know,” “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Refugee,” “The Waiting,” “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and many, many more.The Heartbreakers were album artists that turned out unforgettable singles. As the times changed, Tom and the Heart-breakers produced hit after hit after hit, each one making its mark on American, and in turn, world culture. With every release, it seemed Petty put his finger on the moment, the sounds evolving, the remarkable quality always consistent.

In 1989, Petty released his first album as a solo artist, Full Moon Fever. Bolstered by the unstoppable singles “Free Fallin’ ” and “I Won’t Back Down,” the album was full of Petty’s signature rock and roll, emotional truth, and sly sense of humor. At times more spare, at others more unabashed in its melodic power, it seemed a natural, beautiful progression in the artist’s story. Full Moon Fever heralded a new chapter in Petty’s career, and went platinum five times over.

Then came the Traveling Wilburys, music in films, more solo albums, massive singles like “You Don’t Know How It Feels” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and numerous tours with the Heartbreakers. If Petty is a songwriter whose material has earned him a spot among the greats, he was also always a bandleader. In the summer of 2007, he even reformed his pre-Heartbreakers group Mudcrutch. 2014 brings with it a new album, Petty and the Heartbreakers’ first since the celebrated blues-rock rave-up Mojo in 2010. Through it all, Tom’s restless creative spirit has shone through each project, with constantly renewed vigor and a firm belief in the power of rock and roll. He has always worn on his sleeve the sheer thrill he gets from making music with his friends.

Now in his 33rd year as an ASCAP member, Tom Petty has earned music’s highest honors, including three Grammys, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the distinction of being one of the best-selling artists of all time. These accolades are all reflections of his ability to make impeccably crafted music sound inviting and unpretentious, like it belongs to all of us. We bestow the ASCAP Founders Award on Tom Petty for brilliantly doing what is nearest to his heart: writing songs that the whole world loves, and - just like Elvis did for Petty, 50 years ago - inspiring new generations of songwriters to pursue their own rock and roll dreams.