Tom Petty was born on 20 October 1950 in Gainesville, Florida. His childhood was not a happy one. He would later tell his biographer Warren Zanes that his father Earl: “beat the living shit out of me.” At the age of 10 he shook hands with Elvis after his uncle took him to visit the set of Follow That Dream. Petty went home and traded his slingshot for a box of 45-RPM records. At the age of 13 he saw The Beatles’s debut on The Ed Sullivan Show and decided that he wanted to form a band.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were known as one of the world’s great live bands. Just a week before Petty died, on Monday 25 September 2017, the band played their final show. It was the culmination of a three-night run at the Hollywood Bowl, which itself brought to a close a worldwide tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of the band. They closed the show, as usual, with ‘American Girl’. Petty introduced the song with the words: “We’re almost out of time, we’ve got time for this one here.”