Watch Tom Petty Deliver An Epic Rock History Lesson In Pre-Grammy Speech



One of the better Grammy events took place last Friday night at a tribute gala honoring Tom Petty as the MusiCares Person of the Year, in recognition of his ”extraordinary creative accomplishments and philanthropic endeavors”. MusiCares is the Recording Academy agency that provides assistance to musicians in financial, medical and personal need, and Friday’s event alone raised $8.5 million for this great cause.

But more than that, it looks like it was a helluva night of music and talk, with a fabulous list of artists who came to perform Tom Petty songs. Randy Newman opened the show with a slow acoustic piano version of “Refugee” that apparently knocked a lot of people out. Imagine the Foo Fighters and Gary Clark Jr. taking on “Break Down” or Cage The Elephant’s version of “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, or how about Petty playing “Won’t Back Down” with the song’s co-writer Jeff Lynne.

I hope the Academy makes this concert available to the public because as tributes go, this one looks really outstanding. Other performers included the Lumineers, Jackson Browne, Lucinda Williams, blues legend Taj Mahal, country legend George Strait, Jakob Dylan, Don Henley, The Head and The Heart, Regina Spektor, Stevie Nicks, Norah Jones, The Bangles, and Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen from the Flying Burrito Brothers. That is some kind of lineup.

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I can’t find any good video of the performances, but Petty’s speech is available and it is worth watching. His brief history of Rock is as quirky and laid back as you might expect: In 1964, the Beatles came, I had my eyes opened like so many others, and I joined the conspiracy to put black music on white popular radio.”

Petty described how he somehow miraculously ended up playing with his heroes over the course of his career without ever approaching any one of them first. It just happened. And the stories this guy tells are legendary, or should be. I particularly liked his story of arriving on the L.A. scene in 1974 and having Leon Russell tell him that “wearing sunglasses at night is an honor you earn”. Still true today, I might add.

Anyway this speech is a must for anyone interested in Rock history. And let’s just hope we get to see this concert soon.

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