Crystal Bonvillian, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
Rock icon Tom Petty’s sudden death on Monday has fans stunned, particularly those fans who saw him and his band, the Heartbreakers, end a 40th anniversary tour just a week before he died.
Rolling Stone reported that Petty’s final concert on Sept. 25 was the culmination of a 53-date tour that kicked off in April. His final song was one of his most popular, and the one that the magazine itself dubbed his greatest: “American Girl.”
Petty and his band ended each show on their final tour with the song, which the rocker first recorded in studio on July 4, 1976.
“The American Girl is just one example of this character that I write about a lot,” Rolling Stone quotes Petty saying about the song. “The small-town kid who knows there something more out there, but gets (expletive) up trying to find it. I always felt sympathetic with her.”
Shortly before the final tour began, Petty told the magazine, “If I was a fan, and they didn’t play, ‘American Girl’ or ‘Free Fallin,’ I’d be disappointed.”
A fan near the stage for that final concert at the Hollywood Bowl captured Petty’s last two songs, Rolling Stone said. He and the band played an encore of “You Wrecked Me,” followed by “American Girl.”
Kim Roberts, who posted the video to YouTube the day after the concert, wrote that her “tears (were) falling down” as she wrote Monday about Petty’s death.
“Tom Petty, you were a shining light in this world, a very special human being whose music impacted so many,” Roberts wrote.
Petty told Rolling Stone in December that he believed the upcoming tour would be the last big one for him and the band.
“I’m thinking it may be the last trip around the country,” Petty told the magazine. “It’s very likely we’ll keep playing, but will we take on 50 shows in one tour? I don’t think so. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was thinking this might be the last big one.”
Petty talked about how he and his bandmates were aging, all moving into the “backside of (their) sixties.”
“I have a granddaughter now I’d like to see as much as I can. I don’t want to spend my life on the road,” he said. “This tour will take me away for four months. With a little kid, that’s a lot of time.”