Tom Petty: A Master Songwriter Remembered

In the latest MOJO magazine, Sylvie Simmons speaks to friends and band-members about the much-missed man behind the Heartbreakers.

Tom Petty: A Master Songwriter Remembered

WHEN TOM PETTY DIED at the start of October, 2017, one week exactly after the final show of 40th anniversary tour with the Heartbreakers, the shock and sadness was felt throughout the world, a recognition that one of rock’s finest and best-loved songwriters had been lost to us.

The impact was greater for The Heartbreakers themselves, the band that Petty had dragged up from the Florida sticks to the top of the tree. In MOJO 291, currently on sale worldwide, Sylvie Simmons talks to Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, plus Mudcrutch’s Tom Leadon and Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks,  as they talk us through the life and times of this most driven and talented man, from their earliest days on the road – “It was an adventure into the unknown with a dream,” says Mike Campbell, “driving across America with a couple of cars [and] an old truck for our gear… chasing the promised land” –  to that last night on stage, when, says Campbell, “I remember looking at Tom thinking, ‘This guy is so happy… standing in front of this band, proud to be who he is and he’s proud that the dream is fulfilled.”

In between, we meet Petty the tenacious band leader – “He wouldn’t raise his voice,” says Tench. “He would lower it, and you could see his determination: ‘Not on my record you’re not.’ He didn’t compromise ever” – Petty, the Everyman, who, as Stevie Nicks says, “could look at the world through so many different sets of eyes”, and Petty the friend who, says Campbell, “was all about looking forward. We talked about the future. We would [take] a break and one of us would go, ‘Oh I’ve got some songs,’ and we’d start recording. I’m so sad that I’ll never get to see what those songs might have been. I’ve lost my songwriting partner. And we were such a good fit.”

Also in MOJO 291: Mark Paytress recounts the tale of the Rolling Stones’ most crazed and misunderstood ’60s LP, Their Satanic Majesties Request; Mick Jagger remembers how the Stones became flag-wavers for a generation; Kevin Howlett looks at how the Beatles initiated their own covert psychedelic revolution, with their ever-evolving fan-club Christmas flexi-discs. Jeff Tweedy talks addiction, mental health and recovery with Bob Mehr, Michael Simmons revisits the sad, beautiful and tragic life of US folk-singer Phil Ochs and Pat Gilbert goes on the road with the hard-living, heavy drinking… Elbow.