The rock ‘n roll superstar’s manager confirmed Tom Petty passed away Monday night. This, following hours of confusion after his death was reported prematurely.
“I’m actually in tears on the mic,” KEXP midday host Cheryl Waters said, explaining she was already on the air talking about the mass murder in Las Vegas.
“Just as we’re trying to deal with something that makes no sense, then we hear about – well, what we don’t even actually know yet – is actually the passing of Tom Petty,” Waters said.
The Los Angeles Police Department said soon after that it could not confirm his death, which set off mass confusion on social media and through the airwaves.
Despite this, the outpouring of emotion still came flooding into the station.
“Tom Petty was the soundtrack to his life,” Waters said, reading one of 50 emails that came in within an hour. “The constant evolution of Tom Petty gave him a way to relate growing up. When my wife was pregnant with my son, I would lean over and sing ‘Alright for Now.’”
Self-proclaimed vinyl guy Lars Swenson said the news of Petty’s passing hit him hard: “I grew up with him.”
It is a tough loss for the music industry too, as it has lost many greats as of late – including David Bowie and Prince. Both have featured displays inside West Seattle’s Easy Street Records. Now, Petty does too.
“That’s a perfect rock ‘n roll band: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers,” Swenson, who works at Easy Street, said. “To me he's more relatable. He's more like an everyman. Didn't go to school/Didn't go to work/Picked up the phone/Told the boss he was a jerk – like who can't relate to that? His lyrics and persona I always thought of as the good side of America.”
Swenson said Petty’s greatest hits album sold out in a matter of hours.
“Whenever you lose an artist, it becomes a time when people celebrate the music,” West Seattle’s Anthony Bender said, perusing the Petty display. “Whether it's digging through the music or listening to it, it's important to keep the music alive.”