NEW YORK (AP) — With song and words, Tom Petty was mourned at the Grammys, with artists as diverse as a children’s music writer and one of the most successful contemporary songwriters of all time both calling his music the soundtrack of their lives.
During the Grammy telecast, a separate tribute to Petty was made by Chris Stapleton and Emmylou Harris, who performed Petty’s “Wildflowers” with the lyrics “Sail away, kill off the hours/You belong somewhere you feel free.”
Petty, who produced classics that include “Free Fallin’,” ”Refugee” and “American Girl,” died in October at 66 from a drug overdose. He was one of several high-profile artists who died over the past year, including Chris Cornell, Gregg Allman, Chester Bennington and Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries.
Stapleton joined Petty’s tour with his band the Heartbreakers for a few stops on what would be their last tour last year. The last thing Petty told him was if he’d be willing to do it again, which was a thrill to Stapleton.
“I’m such a huge fan,” said Stapleton backstage, citing “Wildflowers” as one of his favorite songs and adding that it was hard to go onstage to honor Petty. “There was a tear in my eye.”
Stapleton, who won three Grammys on Sunday, said the music industry lost so many people in 2017. “It’s been a rough year.” He hoped his performance with Harris helped somebody find “some relief or peace.”
On the red carpet before the show, singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb called Petty’s music “the soundtrack of my life.” She was at his final concert at the Hollywood Bowl. “It was another amazing concert of his,” she said. “It’s such a loss.”
Songwriter Diane Warren called the loss of Petty a “shame,” adding “There are so many great artists who didn’t have to go.” Blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr. also was mourning the loss. He said he had the opportunity to open for Petty and “I didn’t realize how much of his music I knew. It was like the soundtrack of my life.”
Country superstar Reba McEntire called Petty a great mentor. “What I liked about Tom Petty was that he knew what he wanted and he wasn’t going to take any route left or right. He wanted it this way,” she said. “He’s just a cool dude, really sweet and had a great head on his shoulders.”
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