Ringo Starr on ‘Good Friend’ Tom Petty’s Death: ‘It Was a Shock’

Ringo Starr remembered his “good friend” Tom Petty in a new interview following the rock icon’s death at the age of 66.

“I’ll miss Tom. Tom was a good friend. I played with Tom, Tom played with me. I got to know him over the years, really got to know him when he was in the Traveling Wilburys ’cause of George Harrison,” Starr told Billboard.

“All through my career we’ve lost really great friends, and people who aren’t my friends, but were great musicians and writers. In our business we’ve lost them very young as well. But overall there’s still a lot of us out there doing what we do.”

Starr happened to be in Las Vegas on business at the time of the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting, which occurred hours before Petty’s death.

“The vibe was pretty low – understandably, of course,” Starr said of the hours after the shooting. “Then in the middle of this meeting someone turned to me and said, ‘Tom Petty’s dead.’ ‘Oh my God! What else can go down?’ It was a shock. When you first hear it, it’s like, ‘What…?!’ Like when I heard Elvis was dead… It has to sink in. It was very sad. That’s all I can say, really.”

During Petty’s MusiCares Person of the Year acceptance speech in January, Petty revealed that while he served as a session musician at Leon Russell’s Los Angeles studio in the mid-Seventies, his first session found him in the same room as Starr, Harrison and drummer Jim Keltner. Starr also attended the ceremony.

“They didn’t need any words, but those cats were so cool, you know. And I found myself, after the session when we were hanging out, I found myself slipping my sunglasses on,” Petty said. “Leon said, ‘What the hell are you doing with the dark glasses, man?’ I said, ‘It feels cool, you know, like Jimmy Keltner – he’s got his on.’ Russell said ‘Wearing sunglasses at night is an honor you earn.'” Petty then looked up from his speech to his
sunglasses on.

Starr, along with Harrison and Jeff Lynne, later appeared as part of Petty’s backing band in the video for “I Won’t Back Down”:

Petty also performed alongside Starr when the drummer covered the Beatles’ “I Call Your Name” during a tribute to John Lennon on the 10th anniversary of his death:

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