Tom Petty Revealed the Artist He Thought Was the Last ‘Beatle-Type Figure’

Tom Petty was a huge fan of The Beatles growing up and credits them with making him want to be a musician. After becoming an established artist, he lamented the fact that there weren’t many musicians like The Beatles anymore. In modern years, he struggled to think of comparable figures. He said he believed that the last Beatles-like musician was Kurt Cobain, who died in 1994.

Tom Petty wears a blue jacket and plays a guitar.
Tom Petty | Samir Hussein/Getty Images

Tom Petty said that The Beatles made him realize he wanted to be a musician

In 1964, a 14-year-old Petty watched The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and felt electrified.

“I watched it with my little brother,” he said, per the Grammys. “My mom and dad were there, but they weren’t interested in it. They laughed at it and left the room. But my brother and me, both of us, we just flipped out. We thought it was the greatest thing ever.”

He realized that he wanted to be a musician as well.

“This was the great moment in my life, really, that changed everything,” he said. “I had been a fan up to that point. But this was the thing that made me want to play music. You saw that it could be done. There could be a self-contained unit that wrote, recorded and sang songs. And it looked like they were having an awful lot of fun doing it.”

Tom Petty considered Kurt Cobain the last ‘Beatles-type’ musician 

Petty was highly critical of contemporary music. While he believed in music’s ability to move people, he had problems with the art form. In the 1980s, he complained about the state of the music industry. 

“Music’s really bad now, really pathetically bad,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times in 1986. “There’s a lot of bad bands. And no one seems to say anything about it. They say everything’s fine, but it’s not. It’s really awful. I think there’s a lot of s*** on the radio, really bad stuff. What do you hear that’s good?”

His biggest problem was the lack of inventiveness amongst artists. He believed that this led to generic sounding music. One person who didn’t have this problem in Petty’s eyes was Cobain. 

“I thought Kurt Cobain was the last Beatle-type figure to come into rock’n’roll,” Petty told Q Magazine in 2012, per The Petty Archives. “I thought he was amazing.”

The Heartbreakers invited Dave Grohl to be their drummer

After Cobain’s death, Petty considered having Nirvana’s drummer, Dave Grohl, join the Heartbreakers. Grohl successfully joined the band for their performance on Saturday Night Live and Petty suggested that he could join the group full time. Ultimately, though, Grohl turned him down. He wasn’t ready to drum again after Cobain’s death, and he had begun working on a different project.

“I’m not sure he’d have been happy hanging out with such old guys,” Petty said. “Then he told me he had done his own album called the Foo Fighters … I said, You’re never gonna be happy with me if you leave that.”

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