Each week, another honoree is revealed on CMT Hot 20 Countdown .
Formed in 1976, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers had radio hits through the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s with songs like “Refugee,” “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Last Dance With Mary Jane” and “Breakdown.” They continue to record and draw fans to festivals and concert performances.
Petty’s descriptive and plainspoken songwriting, often featuring typical American characters that most people could identify with, earned him fans across a broad spectrum of musical tastes.
“How he got the band together and stayed true to his songwriting is great,” George Strait told CMT. “And that old rock ’n’ roll that he plays is just good music.”
Petty was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
“I think Tom Petty is the epitome of American music,” The Band Perry’s Reid Perry said. “He has a Midwest sound, even though he’s from Florida. And his songs tell stories like they do in country music, which is one reason why we’re big fans of his.”
“Tom Petty, I think, was born with music in him,” Monroe agreed. “He realized he was born to stand out, and he definitely has. The songs he’s written have stayed classic, and he’s stayed true to himself and the art of music. Even when it was tough sometimes or when it didn’t necessarily fit into any genre, he’s just kept on being Tom Petty.
“He can write a hook,” she continued. “And his hooks are so like guitar licks. They’re so simple, he doesn’t over think things, I don’t think. He sings the lyrics with such confidence and such attack that it makes you go, ’Wow, I’ve never heard sound like that before.'”
Thompson Square pointed out just how much Tom Petty is a part of American life.
“You’re not going to go to a beach, you’re not going to go to a creek, you’re not going to go to a river party or a bonfire or anywhere without hearing some Petty song screaming through the speakers,” Keifer Thompson said. “That’s why we’re talking about him. One of the most influential people ever. There will never be another Tom Petty.”
For Dan + Shay, Petty is as important now as he ever was.
“Tom Petty is that artist that every time the weather starts getting warm, I put on Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits, roll the windows down and crank it up super loud,” admitted Dan Smyers.
“I was able to see Tom Petty live at Bonnaroo, and he was absolutely incredible, still rocks it. There’s just something about him, and he’s inspired me in a lot of ways. I think he was one of the first rock artists that I really got into and kind of rebelled with and just really loved it. It was awesome. To this day, we cover ’Free Fallin” live.”
Check out the rest of the CMT All-Time Top 40: Artists Choice list, and find out who will be announced each Saturday at 11 a.m. ET/PT on CMT Hot 20 Countdown.