Tom Petty was the best thing to come out of Gainesville

The legendary musician passed away at age 66

Tom Petty passed away suddenly Monday evening, but his music and legacy will never die.

Petty was easily the best thing to ever come out of Gainesville. Born in here in 1950, Petty first decided to put together a band in our little college town.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers produced more than 10 albums during their time together and enjoyed the rare success of never going through a serious break-up phase. This spectacular group of 40 years started in Gainesville as "Mudcrutch."

To not recognize Petty's musical contributions to society would be an absolute disgrace. Not only was this man still releasing quality music in his 60s, but he was still performing with the same quintessential raspy, nasally voice he stole hearts with many years prior. His songs will transcend time — there may never be another person who can throw together lyrics in such a casual and poetic way to produce tons of hits like he could.

He was never afraid to speak his mind, whether it was about record labels taking advantage of consumers and artists in the '70s or about his own struggle with heroin addiction to make a difference in the epidemic in the U.S. He was courageous enough to voice the fact that today's music is often shallow. One thing we should all take away from him is that we need to start listening to music that actually means something again.

Petty was never trying to impress you or me — he was trying to make a difference and do what was right, and he just so happened to do so in the process.

Something about Tom Petty will always captivate people. Whether it's debating if the song "American Girl" was really about a girl jumping off of Beaty Towers at UF or trying to figure out what his music videos were inspired by, he always had a sense of mystery from just being the coolest guy around. Singer Michelle Branch put it best with her tweet Tuesday:

Petty rose out of a difficult childhood with an abusive father and made himself into the person he dreamed of being. Isn't that all what we want for ourselves as we grow into adults? To determine our own destiny and accomplish our goals?

Tom found his escape from this life in little old Gainesville with his superior musical talent. In the documentary Runnin' Down a Dream, Petty discusses how his father buying him a guitar was probably the nicest thing he ever did for him.

"Music is probably the only real magic I have encountered in my life," Petty said. "There’s not some trick involved with it. It’s pure and it’s real. It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things."

No one can say Petty did not live a full life. He traveled the world, was a pioneer of Southern rock and even joined the Traveling Wilburys with musical legends Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison.

So this is goodbye for now to Tom Petty — a true American rock 'n' roll icon. But it should not be goodbye to all the ideas and inspiration he leaves behind.

You belong among the wildflowers, Tom.

University of Florida: UF