I woke this morning to news best broadcast in the parlance of “The Wizard of Oz:” Tom Petty was “really most sincerely dead.” I reacted accordingly and pulled my American Girl close.Getting out of bed seemed self-defeating, but we did it, anyway.

This blog’s headline is shamelessly hyperbolic, the kind of hero-worship Petty would have rejected in his signature laid-back way. He was the rare superstar who never lost his modesty, never forgot where he came from or how lucky he was to end up in the pantheon of rock.

“It’s shocking, crushing news,” Petty’s friend and Traveling Wilburys bandmate Bob Dylan told Rolling Stone. “I thought the world of Tom. He was a great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him.”

The first two times I saw Dylan, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were his backup band. I treasure those memories, as I do the few times Petty played on Montage Mountain. My favorite moment of those shows was the night he premiered, “Have Love, Will Travel,” a new song the Montage audience immediately identified with. The lyrics speak for themselves, and to every soul striving to make a living and build a better future in Northeast Pennsylvania:

You never had a chance, did you babe
So good looking, so insecure
And now you say you can’t remember
When the lines you drew began to blur

Yeah, when all of this is over
Should I lose you in the smoke
I want you to know you were the one

Dylan is Dylan. He appreciates his audience, but our participation is incidental. He does His Thing. If we sing along, fine. If not, that’s fine, too. Dylan is Dylan.

Springsteen values his audience above all else. When Bruce says goodnight, he leaves half his weight in sweat on the stage. Springsteen is Springsteen.

Petty was Petty. He occupied a space between Dylan and Springsteen, spinning the soundtrack of a generation while still seeming like an average cat who might pass you something at a party you could puff with trust. Tom Petty knew how it feels.

I know my way around a guitar. Tom Petty was a genius at writing classics with the fewest chords possible. On our second or third  date, I picked up my acoustic and serenaded Chrissy with “Angel Dream.” The lyrics:

I dreamed you, I saw your face 
Caught my lifeline, went drifting through space 
I saw an angel, I saw my fate 
I can only thank God it was not too late
Over mountains I floated away 
Across an ocean I dreamed her name 
I followed an angel down through the gates 
I can only thank God it was not too late
Sing a little song of loneliness 
Sing one to make me smile 
Another round for everyone 
I’m here for a little while
Now I’m walking this street on my own 
But she’s with me everywhere I go 
Yeah I found an angel, I found my place 
I can only thank God it was not too late 
We danced to “Angel Dream” at our wedding. I can only thank God and Tom Petty it was not too late.