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Remembering Tom Petty, a rock legend who connected

Rock legend Tom Petty died at the age of 66 late Monday. Emerging in the late ‘70s, he and his band the Heartbreakers became a major fixture in rock ‘n’ roll with catchy songs like “Free Fallin’” that bridged both classic and newer rock sounds. Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Ann Powers of NPR about Petty’s legacy.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And before we go tonight, we want to mark the passing of a legend of rock 'n' roll.

    Tom Petty died last night at the age of 66. He is one of the bestselling music artists of all time.

    Our Hari Sreenivasan looks at Tom Petty's life and legacy with Ann Powers of NPR.

    He started by asking her about Petty's significance in the history of rock.

  • ANN POWERS, NPR:

    Tom Petty was a bridge figure in the history of rock 'n' roll.

    He emerged in the late '70s as part — part of kind of a power pop wave, but connected to classic rock and even early rock 'n' roll to what came later, to new wave, to new sounds of the '80s.

    And Petty was as much a Beatles fanatic and an heir to the Beatles as he was an heir to Southern rock, being from Florida. So, he's really a guy, he connected so many different elements, and he was man of the people. His music touched the people and spoke of regular folks.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And he just finished a 40th anniversary tour. This is a band and himself that lasted a long time, which is pretty rare to do in the music industry.

  • ANN POWERS:

    Absolutely.

    I think so many people loved Tom Petty because his music resonated in so many corners. You know, it was melodic. It is a joy and a pleasure to listen to.

    It also has a gritty side, has a heartland feel. The stories he told were often of heartland people, American girls and boys. So, he had that fan base that never faded and also was intergenerational.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And he was well-respected. Just being in the Traveling Wilburys sort of consortium is kind of an honor in itself, with George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan.

  • ANN POWERS:

    Absolutely.

    Petty, you know, he connected those figures. He connected Roy Orbison and Dylan and Harrison to each other. He is that glue. And I think we will remember him that way.

    He was a great pop craftsman. He wrote some of the most memorable songs of my lifetime, you know, a song like "American Girl," a song like "Free Fallin'." You just don't make better pop singles than that. And he also, with his band, was one of the hallmarks of rock 'n' roll, one of the great rockers.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right.

    Ann Powers of NPR, thanks so much.

  • ANN POWERS:

    Thank you so much.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    He was brilliant, and he touched our heart.

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