Kind of the last part of it is that Tom, for me, is one of those people the world was better for having in it. I don’t tend to get very worked up by the deaths of people I don’t know, even people that produced work I really like. Prince is a good example for me. I admired the hell out of him and his talent. I wasn’t thrilled when he passed. However, when a Prince song comes on, it doesn’t really affect me much. When I hear a random Petty tune on the radio, I love hearing it, but it also bums me out a bit. I mean he was off the road after a great tour for like a week before he died. I caught a show on the last tour. It was great. The band was tight. Tom was playing and singing strongly. Looked like he was having a blast. The audience was up for it. And those guys could put on a show. So, when he died, it was just sort of out of the blue.
I’m not one to romanticize drug and alcohol use/abuse. I’ve been around too long, and seen the real toll of that. As it turns out, though, Petty had a problem with opioids in the 90’s, which I really didn’t know until I read Warren Zanes’ excellent biography. And, apparently, Petty’s hip was shot for that whole tour, so I guess he was kind of self-medicating to get through the dates. Rumor has it that it was cracked, and finally broke right around the day he passed. Regardless, for me anyhow, it was more surprising than a lot of deaths of people in the public consciousness, and, therefore, a bit harder to fathom. That’s mostly down to the fact that he seemed like a guy who had gotten through the tough patches, and, while he still liked to burn one, wasn’t on some downward spiral.