ASCAP Remembers Tom Petty

By Erik Philbrook, ASCAP Editor-in-Chief  •  October 2, 2017

"It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to one of our all-time great songwriters, Tom Petty,” said ASCAP President Paul Williams. “Tom mined one of the richest veins of creativity for more than four decades and, whether performing solo or with his longtime band of collaborators, The Heartbreakers, gave the world some of the most indelible songs ever written: 'American Girl,' 'Free Falling,' 'Refugee,' 'The Waiting,' 'I Need to Know' and so many more. He passionately carried the torch for rock ‘n’ roll and taught us all how to ‘keep this world from dragging me around.’ He never stopped writing new songs, performing, touring and inspiring new generations of songwriters. He never backed down. And thanks to his life in music, neither will we."

Tom Petty has always belonged to a special class of artists. From the moment he emerged in the late ‘70s with his band The Heartbreakers, he conquered the charts and the hearts of millions. As the times changed, Tom and his incredible circle of musicians produced hit after hit after hit, each one making its mark on American, and in turn, world culture. Then came the other projects: the solo albums, The Traveling Wilburys, music in films, various collaborations, more albums and numerous tours with The Heartbreakers. In fact this year, the band celebrated their 40th Anniversary by embarking on yet another wildly popular tour. More than 60 million records have been sold along the way, and 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 music. He has always worn the sheer thrill he gets from making music with his friends on his sleeve.

In 2005, Tom gave the keynote interview at the first-ever ASCAP “I Create Music” EXPO in Los Angeles. In 2014, ASCAP presented him with its prestigious Founders Award. During his acceptance speech, Tom summed up the lifelong appeal of rock music in that simple, elegant way that only he could: "Rock ‘n’ roll is one of the greatest things, because it makes you feel good, but done at its very best, you feel cool. And that’s a great reward."