Today, Tom Petty is an icon. He’s a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and an influence on dozens of roots-rock and indie bands, many of whom participate in annual all-star “Petty Fest” concerts in New York and San Francisco.
But that’s just one of many roles Petty has played over his more than 35-year career.
Here’s a look back at some of his other roles:
The bar band leader
Petty and his band the Heartbreakers got their start playing bars around Gainesville, Fla., before relocating to Los Angeles and recording their debut album. But their real breakthrough came during a U.K. tour that got such rave reviews that people back home finally started to pay attention.
This role is one Petty would return to throughout his career, filing for bankruptcy in a contract dispute with his record label, breaking his hand punching a recording studio wall and threatening to call an album “Eight Ninety-Eight” to prevent anyone from selling it for a higher price. We won’t count the fictional fight with Greg Kinnear on an episode of “The Larry Sanders Show.”
The MTV star
Petty was a near constant presence in the early days of MTV, but truly became a video star with his eye-popping 1985 Alice in Wonderland-influenced video “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” which ended with him cutting up Alice and eating her like a cake. A few years later, his “Into the Great Wide Open” video featured Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway, while Kim Basinger starred in “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.”
The younger brother
By the late ’80s, Petty’s childhood idols from the 1960s began to embrace him. He toured with Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead, and joined the Traveling Wilburys alongside Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne.
Petty’s most recent album, 2010’s “Mojo,” found the band stretching out with blues-rock songs recorded live in the studio, an approach he landed on when he reunited his pre-Heartbreakers band Mudcrutch and recorded an album in 10 days. Petty & the Heartbreakers currently are working on a new album due in 2014.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers are at Beacon Theatre Monday night, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m., 2124 Broadway, 212-465-6500, $54-$130.