Tom Petty, the enigmatic, rebellious leader of the Heartbreakers tragically passed away earlier this week. Throughout his forty-plus year career, Petty was a staple of modern rock and roll. With a seemingly endless supply of hit singles, Petty was the true artist that spoke to everyone for everyone. His caviler approach and take no prisoners attitude further solidified his stature as a modern king of rock. Petty could literally be startled awake, fall out of his bed, trip down the stairs and land on his living room couch with a song you’d have to fight yourself to stop singing. Petty’s effortless ability to craft catchy, melodically rich, instantly recognizable bliss will be sorely missed. It’s truly sad when a legend’s life comes to end. But Petty left us with more greatness than you possibly even realize. He leaves behind a wealth of wonderful material that rivals the output of almost any other contemporary artist.
Petty was a rare breed. He was beloved by fans, contemporaries and by those who influenced him, such as Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Roger McGuinn. Additionally, Petty collaborated with some of rock and alternative’s best for some pretty awesome pairings. Here are five unforgettable, mesmerizing collaborations by Tom Petty with some of rock and alternative’s biggest names.
5. While My Guitar Gently Weeps with Prince
Kicking off the list is this rendition of the George Harrison-penned Beatles classic, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” While not an alternative rock collaboration, you can’t deny the power of Petty and Prince. Prince by the way, probably one of the most underrated guitarists ever. He shreds as effortlessly as Petty writes classic songs. They make it look easy. This Rock and Roll Hall of Fame jam that features George Harrison’s son and Petty collaborator/producer, Jeff Lynne, of ELO, is a must see for all music fans. Petty’s voice fits perfect in the register fulfilled so gracefully by George Harrison. Petty could have been the fifth Beatle. But just think if Prince had been the sixth…
4. American Girl with Eddie Vedder (2012)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were joined by Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder for a subtle performance of “American Girl.” Petty and Vedder trade off line with the comfort of two long-lost brothers, united over this Heartbreakers classic. “American Girl” is synonymous with Petty. You’d be forgiven if you mistake Vedder for the song’s original composer by how strong a performance he delivers. Petty and Vedder share a real kinship. Two brilliant masters at work. It’s performances such as this that make young kids want to be musicians.
3. Free Fallin’ with Axl Rose (1989)
Tom Petty’s 1989 album, Full Moon Fever, took the blueprint of the Heartbreakers but allowed him even more creative freedom to indulge his wide array of sonic capabilities. On this performance from the 1989 VMA’s, Petty and Axl Rose swoon together, eliciting wide praise from the eager audience. Their voices work together better than you could have imagined on this dreamy cut. Petty no doubt laid great influence over an entire generation of musicians from rock to metal to grunge. You can’t deny a great song; regardless of genre. And “Free Falliin’” may be his best.
2. The Waiting with Eddie Vedder
Tom and Ed. Baby, don’t it feel like Heaven right now? You wouldn’t be wrong if you thought so. Vedder is so at home performing with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, it’s almost scary. You can feel Vedder’s love and admiration for Petty ooze out of him in this impassioned performance. There is such beauty in seeing someone getting to perform with one of their idols. It’s magical; almost, heaven-like. Vedder gets two spots here because of his well-documented love of the Heartbreakers. I’ve often wondered if the Heartbreakers were ever in need of a new front man, who could fit that bill. With Petty’s untimely passing, it would be great to see Vedder lead a celebration of the life and music of Tom Petty.
1. Honey Bee with Dave Grohl
For all that Tom Petty has accomplished, one undeniable trend he began was calling upon Dave Grohl to take over behind the drums in a time of a need. Everyone from Nine Inch Nails to Queens of the Stone Age have sworn to this remedy but it was in this Saturday Night Live performance from 1994 that started it all. Grohl, coming off the death of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, sat in and did more than fair justice to this killer track from Petty’s second solo album, Wildflowers. Grohl absolutely owns throughout.
Somewhere in an alternate universe, Dave Grohl joined Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers fulltime and passed on starting the Foo Fighters. Think about that for a second. What could have been of a long, fruitful collaboration between these two absolute giants of rock? We may never know, but we always have this proof to swear by that it would have worked to perfection.