(NOTE: Singer-songwriter Tom Petty has died at age 66. In advance of the Heartbreakers' 2002 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Petty commented on then-Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn's 10 favorite Petty songs. This article was originally published on March 15, 2002.)
Tom Petty's music has always reflected the purity and faith of a musician who had the courage and conviction to simply listen to his heart.
Rather than tailor his style to better fit critical or commercial trends, the singer-songwriter and his band the Heartbreakers have remained true, in themes and presentation, to the basic rock 'n' roll tradition that they learned from the records of such classic figures as Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Byrds and Bob Dylan.
On Monday in New York City, Petty and the Heartbreakers will join those and other early heroes as members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jakob Dylan will induct them in a ceremony whose taped highlights will be broadcast at 9 p.m. Wednesday by VH1. Other inductees this year include Isaac Hayes, Brenda Lee, Gene Pitney, the Ramones and Talking Heads.
"I feel like a lucky man," Petty, 51, said this week at his home in Malibu, where he lives with his second wife, Dana, and her 9-year-old son from her first marriage. "A lot of people really struggle to find out what they want to do in life, but I knew as soon as I saw Elvis Presley, when I was 11. From that point, music became my religion, my nourishment.
"It was also a safe haven for me. My life was very turbulent as a child and a little scary, and music made everything seem right. It has also pulled me through some other dark times. It's very touching to be voted into the Hall of Fame because it's an award given by your peers, and it's a nice feeling to think you're going to be remembered."
Joining the Florida native on stage will be the original Heartbreakers lineup of Mike Campbell on guitar, Benmont Tench on keyboards, Stan Lynch on drums and Ron Blair on bass. Howie Epstein, who replaced Blair in the early '80s, will also participate.
It's easy to see why so many of Petty's songs, including "Refugee" and "I Won't Back Down," are anthems about struggling to pursue your dreams. He came into rock in the mid-'70s, a time when the pop airwaves were devoted to disco or bland pop-rock, and he subsequently went through some highly publicized battles with record companies to maintain his personal and creative independence.
Unlike most Hall of Fame inductees over the years, Petty is still a Top 10 album sales contender and a top arena draw. His next collection is due by the fall and he will continue to tour periodically with the Heartbreakers.
Petty, who also has two grown daughters from his first marriage, finds it hard to come up with a list of his own favorite compositions, but he agreed to comment on 10 of my Petty favorites. The songs are listed chronologically.