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"It's hard. And it's still hard": The Heartbreakers Keyboardist Benmont Tench On Life After Tom Petty
American classic-rock hero Tom Petty passed away in October of 2017, just one week after his final 40th anniversary tour date at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. But his music and legacy live on: Last fall saw the release of a Petty rarities album called An American Treasure, and on March 1, another collection will be released. The Best of Everything: The Definitive Career Spanning Hits Collection 1976-2016 features 38 songs from Petty's recordings with the Hearbreakers, his early '70s project Mudcrutch and his solo recordings.
Speaking to Billboard about the rocker's legacy, Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench elaborated on losing his friend and how he continues to cope with the sudden loss (Petty died of cardiac arrest). "It's hard to just realize, I suppose, that I'm not gonna get to play with that guy," he said. "I'm not gonna get to make that sound. He's not gonna show me a new song. I'm not gonna be at the Clubhouse and start playing an Elmore James song and he'll fall in and know every word. That's not gonna happen—and I really, really miss that."
Tench also called out the differences between both new Petty compilations, the second of which arrives tomorrow: "(The Best of Everything) is more for the fan who loves the band but is a casual fan," he said. "And if this rings somebody's bell, then An American Treasure is where to go to get deeper. And, of course, for every song on this greatest hits there's an album that goes with it, so they can go there, too."
Petty's daughters Adria and Annakim Petty also spoke to Billboard about keeping their dad's legacy alive, though they admitted that they had decided to take a break from releasing anything too soon after The Best Of Everything.
"I think we're going to take a beat after this and let this record come out and do justice to the finest work our dad did and sort of being the journey of trying to be the messengers and ambassadors of this work and this band," Adria said. "Personally I'm hoping we're not releasing anything for a little while so we get a chance to digest what happened. We have such a rich archive; We want to follow the spirit and the ethics our father believed in and be real decent about how we steward this really huge gift he gave us."
Petty earned MusiCares' Person Of The Year accolade in 2017 and won three GRAMMYs over the course of his career. He was nominated for 18 GRAMMYs as a solo artist and won one GRAMMY award with the Heartbreakers, along with being nominated for five.