Tom Petty always intended for the Heartbreakers to continue.
In 2017, Petty and the band performed a 40th-anniversary tour of North America, and though he had hinted in interviews that his days of large-scale touring might be winding down, there was no mention of retirement. “The thing about the Heartbreakers is it’s still holy to me,” Petty told the Los Angeles Times in 2017.
“There’s a holiness there. If that were to go away, I don’t think I would be interested in it, and I don’t think [the band] would. We’re a real rock ’n’ roll band — always have been. And to us, in the era we came up in, it was a religion in a way. It was more than commerce, it wasn’t about that. It was about something much greater.”
One week after the 40th-anniversary tour concluded on Sept. 25, 2017, and a few days after his interview with the Los Angeles Times, Petty died after an accidental overdose of painkillers.
The news was reminiscent of another death in the Heartbreakers family, that of bassist Howie Epstein, who died in 2003 from complications related to drug use. Though Epstein was fired from the band in 2002, Petty would later say the bassist was “never not a Heartbreaker.”
The surviving members of the Heartbreakers are still recording and performing live today. It’s the only way they’ve ever envisioned their lives, guitarist Mike Campbell emphasized.
“Music is the most important thing to us, other than family,” he told Guitar.com in 2021. “It’s all based on love and a kind of spiritual appreciation of the gift we were given, to make this music. I still have that spark. That’s what keeps me going.”
It also keeps his former bandmates moving forward, as you’ll see below in Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers: Where Are They Now?
Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers: Where Are They Now?
The surviving members continue to forge new paths.