LOS ANGELES — Tom Petty was celebrated Friday at the MusiCares Person of the Year gala, where Stevie Nicks, Foo Fighters and ELO’s Jeff Lynne paid tribute to the rock icon with catalog-spanning performances. USA TODAY caught up with artists on the red carpet at the pre-Grammy event to talk about Petty’s influence on them:
The Russian-born singer/songwriter honored Petty with an emotional rendition of his band Mudcrutch’s Forgive It All.
“It’s just been haunting me in a good way,” Spektor says. “It’s got a really beautiful video, too, that kind of makes you cry.” On Twitter, Petty called Spektor one of the most talented musicians alive. Spektor echoes the praise, saying Petty is one of “the funniest people in the whole wide world.” When she toured with him and The Heartbreakers in 2012, it was “like watching an incredible magician and then being, ‘So, how do you do these tricks?’ And then being like, ‘I have no idea.’ He really has a beautiful way onstage. I just feel very inspired by the love he puts out.”
The Head and the Heart
The Seattle-bred indie-rock band saluted the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with a rollicking take on You Got Lucky, a top-20 hit from Petty’s 1982 album Long After Dark. Drummer Tyler Williams’ first introduction to Petty was via the 1979 effort Damn the Torpedoes. “My dad had that and always played that growing up, so Here Comes My Girl was my first Tom Petty love,” Williams says. As an artist, he is inspired by “the simplicity of what (Petty) does. It’s incredible to witness over the span of his career how many changes he can do and still be as relatable and incredible a musician as possible.”
Gary Clark Jr.
The Austin-based blues rocker ran away with some of MusiCares’ most memorable performances: sparring on guitar with Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl for Breakdown, and later, putting a soulful solo spin on Good Enough. “I remember growing up and listening to Breakdown as a kid,” Clark says. “My friends turned me on to it leaving school, catching rides, being like, ‘Hey, have you heard this?’ ” He adds that Petty’s audaciousness is what sets him apart from other rock legends. “As an artist, I always look up to artists who don’t care what people think, don’t try to fit into a box and are just true to themselves,” Clark says.
The up-and-coming L.A. band got a major co-sign from Petty, whom they worked with on his 2014 album Hypnotic Eye, before he agreed to produce their self-titled debut album, released last summer. “At first it was just one song, but little by little, everyone was so excited about what was happening and the sound that we were creating, that we just kept going,” says singer/guitarist Chase Simpson. Like many other artists in attendance, the rockers have been most inspired by the bare-bones quality of Petty’s songs. “It’s really easy to get caught up in all the bells and whistles and things, but the core is really the songwriting,” says bassist Jacob Pillot. “That’s what makes his songs so fantastic.”
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