Bob Dylan paid tribute to the late Tom Petty during a Saturday-night concert in Broomfield, Colorado, by performing Petty’s “Learning to Fly” during the encore, on the night after what would have been Petty’s 67th birthday.
The song, from Petty’s first sans-Heartbreakers solo album, “Into the Great Wide Open”, was co-written by Petty and ELO frontman Jeff Lynne, who produced the album and was also a member of the Traveling Wilburys alongside Petty, Dylan, George Harrison and Roy Orbison.
Petty had always been a fan and admirer of Dylan, and the two became close friends when Petty and the Heartbreakers served as Dylan’s backing band during his legendary “True Confessions” tour in 1987. Dylan and Petty also co-wrote the single “Jammin’ Me” on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 1987 album “Let Me Up I’ve Had Enough”.
“It’s shocking, crushing news,” Dylan told Rolling Stone of Petty following his unexpected death. “I thought the world of Tom. He was a great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him.”
Back in 2012, Petty discussed his experience touring with Dylan during an interview with the Telegraph. “I learned so much from Bob Dylan,” declared Petty. “He gave us a kind of courage that we never had, to learn something quickly and go out on stage and play it. You had to be pretty versatile because arrangements could change, keys might change, there’s just no way of knowing exactly what he wants to do each night. You really learnt the value of spontaneity, of how a moment that is real in a concert is worth so much more than one you plan out.”