Did Tom Petty kill Del Shannon?

Nope. Del committed suicide. But I see a question mark on the wall. Tom Petty released the album Full Moon Fever in April 1989, which included the single, Runnin’ Down the Dream. In the song Tom describes driving down the highway and “…me and Del were singin’ Little Runaway,” as in, Del was singing on the radio and Tom was singing along, in real life. Runnin’ Down the Dream received heavy airplay. Almost anywhere you or I (or Del) turned the song could be heard.

Tom Petty is a popular musician but in the big picture his artistic contributions are insignificant compared to the innovative efforts of Del Shannon. In the early 1960s, with bandmate Max Crook, Del introduced to modern music a new sound, including what was essentially the first synthesizer. Shannon was a forerunner in re-couching the music of youth and changing the landscape of the entire music market, one 89-cent single at a time. Over the years he made comeback attempts but failed.

Nine months after Petty released Me ‘n’ Del were singin’ Del shot himself. He was a forgotten hero, an unappreciated pioneer watching younger, mediocre musicians come along and, using sophisticated production techniques, create music that sold millions of albums. Tom Petty’s song drove home to Shannon the realization that he would never come back from the past. Petty’s widely played song was the final blow, rendering Shannon an irreversible anachronism.

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One Comment on “Did Tom Petty kill Del Shannon?”

  1. Ron Mann Says:

    Sorry but your comments are out of line here. If you would do some research you would know that Tom Petty was a friend to Del. He loved his music and history.

    Other facts you may have missed are:

    In 1978 Tom Petty made the effort to search for Del and get him involved in music again. This resulted the critically acclaimed album “Drop Down and Get Me” that included the hit Sea of Love.

    They worked again along with Jeff Lynne in 1988 & 89 on the album called “Rock On!”. After that he unexpectedly committed suicide. He was rumored to replace Roy Orbison in the Traveling Wilburys along with Petty, Lynne, George Harrison and Bob Dylan.

    The song you mentioned was a tribute to Del in many ways. Millions were heartbroken to know Del was gone and I think Tom was one of the saddest. So let’s not blame his friends for that.


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