Mark Ronson shared a thoughtful and moving tribute to Tom Petty on Instagram, spread out over three posts. Ronson recounted the late musician's importance in his own life and spoke about seeing Petty in concert for the first time just last month, at what would turn out to be one of the musician's final shows. Petty died Monday at the age of 66 after going into cardiac arrest.
Ronson said he fell in love with Petty's music while growing up in "MTV America" during the Eighties, when the rocker was so prominent he "might as well have been the Beatles." Ronson called Petty's 1989 LP Full Moon Fever the quintessential Eighties album, praising everything from the drum sounds to the lyrics on "Running Down a Dream," which he credited with helping him "understand what grown-up melancholy was."
Ronson, born in London, also touched on the musician's importance in England, saying he was "the American most embraced during the English punk era." While the punk movement signaled the death of bloated arena rock from both Britain and the United States, Ronson called Petty a kindred spirit to Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and the Sex Pistols.
Ronson admitted that his interest in Petty and guitar rock waned as his tastes turned to hip-hop, R&B and soul. But he was eventually inspired to return to Petty's catalog after watching Peter Bogdanovich's sprawling 2007 documentary, Runnin' Down a Dream.
"I fully realized that song book, that catalog, was perhaps my favorite catalog – maybe next to Stevie Wonder – of the entire modern era," Ronson wrote. "To have so many hit songs, to be routed in so many different sonic eras, from the Americana Rock & Roll of the early stuff, straight into the proto punk, into just the straight anthems of Damn the Torpedoes, into pushing technology forward hooking up with Dave Stewart with the LinnDrum centric sounds of 'Don't Come Around Here No More' into the Jeff Lynne rebirth, into 'Mary Jane,' all of it, it's ridiculous."
In the throes of his rekindled fandom, Ronson said he became determined to see Petty live. After several failed attempts, Ronson finally locked down tickets to see Petty play two shows during a run at the Hollywood Bowl in September. The first show, on the 21st, "blew him away," though he admitted his expectations had been so high there were moments where he felt somewhat let down. However, Ronson called the second night "flawless," even though Petty more or less played the same set. "I stayed 'til the very end and lapped all of it up," Ronson said. "It was just so special."
Ronson said he was eating in dinner in Paris when he heard about Petty's death and his mind immediately jumped to the concerts he'd just seen. "I really don't know what I would have done if I hadn't seen those shows," Ronson said. "I guess that makes him truly the greatest American song book. I love him so much. I don't know how you could love someone so much that you've never met but ... this guy who just brought musical fucking joy and everything to so many people on such a level."