Canadian artists mourn loss of Tom Petty
Published Tuesday, October 3, 2017 1:28PM EDT Last Updated Tuesday, October 3, 2017 2:54PM EDT
TORONTO -- Sass Jordan always considered Tom Petty a huge musical influence, so she jumped at the chance to watch him rehearse back in the mid-1990s.
The husky-voiced Canadian rocker was invited by Howie Epstein, Petty's late bass player, to swing by a cavernous Los Angeles soundstage where Petty and his band the Heartbreakers were banging out tour plans.
There with his friends and entourage, she listened as Petty charged through several songs.
"It was fascinating to watch the man I idolized conduct the band as he did," Jordan recalled Tuesday after learning of Petty's sudden death at the age of 66.
"He was one of the people that was lucky enough to speak for the common man -- like Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan."
Tributes to Petty poured in following confirmation of his death Monday after suffering cardiac arrest at his Malibu home. The singer of hits like "Refugee" and "Won't Back Down" was credited with crossing the rock boundaries by winning approval from both music aficionados and casual FM radio listeners.
His uncanny ability to bridge both worlds always fascinated Jordan, but she never actually met him on that fateful rehearsal day. It's left her to ruminate on some of his techniques.
"I don't know how the guy came up with so many variations on three cords and made them all sound fresh, brilliant and new," Jordan said.
"Simplicity is the most challenging ... the heart speaks through simplicity. In simplicity you have some of the most complex emotion."
While Petty is known almost exclusively for rock music, he played within those confines with a particular zeal.
Aside from his toe-tappers with the Heartbreakers, he also dabbled in an angsty duet "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" with Stevie Nicks and was a member of the Traveling Wilburys alongside Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne.
Jordan sang the Nicks collaboration during an appearance last month on the YouTube series "Jeff's Musical Car," which puts musicians into the vehicle for a live performance while travelling the streets of New Brunswick.
Tom Cochrane considers himself another tested fan of Petty's songbook, ranking his 1989 album "Full Moon Fever" as his transcendent best.
"He didn't compromise and he didn't pull his punches as an artist," the "Life is a Highway" musician said.
"He walked that walk and defied the system. He was committed to the integrity of the music."
Like many fans, Cochrane was startled by Petty's sudden death.
"There's something comforting with an artist like that where you think he's always out there doing his thing," he said.
"It reminds you of your mortality," he added.
Ewan Currie, lead singer of Saskatchewan band the Sheepdogs, sees Petty as an "effortless statesman" of rock music with rare mass appeal. He credited Petty's ability to merge 1970s rock with a bit of the early 1980s punk spirit as one of his most admirable traits.
"There are certain artists where they're not cult, they're mass appeal yet everyone respects them at the same time," he said.
"It seemed like it came very easy to Tom Petty."
Other Canadian artists took to Twitter to pay tribute and express their condolences.
Ottawa-born Kathleen Edwards tweeted shortly after initial reports surfaced of Petty being put on life support.
"Tom petty you are my eternal musical hero and the reason i became a singer and a songwriter," she wrote on Monday.
She added: "thank you to Tom's family for sharing him with us all these years."
Torquil Campbell, co-lead singer of Montreal band Stars, tweeted that Petty "wrote some of the most indelible, wry, universal, addictive songs ever."
And Bryan Adams summed up his feelings with a simple message: "RIP Tom Petty. Thanks for all the great rockin' music, hard to believe you're gone."