Tom Petty photo by Robert Altman
The tributes have been rolling in since Tom Petty passed away last night, with collaborators like Bob Dylan and fans such as Ryan Adams and Paul McCartney all sending out messages of sorrow and reverence. Though Bruce Springsteen doesn’t fall into the former category, his relationship with the late rock legend was beyond that of the latter. With careers that began around the same time, the two considered each other “fellow travelers,” and Springsteen expressed as much in a series of tweets remembering Petty.
“Down here on E Street, we’re devastated and heartbroken over the death of Tom Petty. Our hearts go out to his family and bandmates,” Springsteen wrote. “I’ve always felt a deep kinship with his music. A great songwriter and performer, whenever we saw each other it was like running into a long lost brother. Our world will be a sadder place without him.”
Others were aware of the closeness between the two musicians, as Warren Zanes referenced in the 2015 biography Petty (via Billboard):
“Around the time he drove the car off the lot, he got a call from Bruce Springsteen. Petty had seen Springsteen at the Roxy, in the months before Born to Run was released, and liked what he saw, recognized a fellow traveler. Petty didn’t know the man, but Springsteen wasn’t shy in the way Petty was. The guy from New Jersey put in the call, just to hang out, one rock and roller to another…
Petty picked him up at the Sunset Marquis. They went down Sunset Boulevard to the water, stopping at Tower Records on the way, picking up half a dozen eight-tracks. They drove until they’d listened to every song on every one of them. The Stones’ 12 x 5 was among the tapes. When ‘Congratulations’ came on, Springsteen raised his arms to the heavens and said, ‘You can take me now!’ Petty loved that. He liked knowing another man out there who went to the same church.”