The Story Behind Eddie Vedder’s Song Tribute To Tom Petty
via Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers / YouTube
The passing of Tom Petty in 2017 shook the music world, leaving a void that seemed impossible to fill. Petty’s influence on American rock and roll was immeasurable, and his legacy lived on through the hearts of his fans and fellow musicians. One such admirer was Pearl Jam’s charismatic frontman, Eddie Vedder, who shared a deep friendship with the iconic singer-songwriter. Vedder’s tribute to Petty, however, was subtle yet profoundly heartfelt, encapsulated in his solo work and a particular track that bore the essence of the legendary musician.
Vedder’s love for Petty was no secret.
In 2018, during the Oscar Awards’ solemn ‘In Memoriam’ segment, Vedder paid homage to his late friend by performing Petty’s track ‘Room at the Top’. This public gesture was a testament to the respect and affection Vedder held for the departed artist. But the connection between Vedder and Petty ran deeper than a mere cover at an awards show.
Their friendship was marked by shared stages and musical collaborations. In 2012, Vedder joined Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers on their European tour. One memorable night in Amsterdam, Vedder and the band enthralled the audience with a spirited rendition of ‘American Girl’. It was a partnership born out of mutual respect and a genuine love for music.
The real essence of Vedder’s tribute, however, was unveiled in his solo work, notably in the song ‘Long Way’ from his album Earthling.
When discussing the track with Bruce Springsteen, Vedder acknowledged the uncanny resemblance to Petty’s musical style, calling it “the ghost of Tom.” He revealed how the song’s creation was an intuitive process, experimenting with chords on a Guild four-string tenor bass. Vedder’s chords, although seemingly unique, bore a simplicity and cleverness reminiscent of Petty’s songwriting technique.
“I thought I was coming up with some really interesting ones that’d never been played before. It was very simple chords and that was kind of how Tom Petty would write,” Vedder explained.
The song took shape in a single afternoon, capturing the essence of Petty’s craft and Vedder’s heartfelt tribute to his departed friend.
Incorporating a B3 organ, reminiscent of Petty’s signature sound, Vedder and his team reached out to Benmont Tench from The Heartbreakers.
Tench’s contribution added a powerful layer to the track, creating a musical tribute that echoed the spirit of Petty himself.
Through ‘Long Way’, Eddie Vedder beautifully encapsulated the essence of Tom Petty’s music. In its simplicity and sincerity, the song became a testament to the enduring friendship between two musicians and the profound impact Petty had on Vedder’s artistry. As fans continue to cherish the legacy of Tom Petty, Vedder’s tribute stands as a poignant reminder of the timeless influence of a musical icon.