Coldplay played a faithful version of Petty’s hit after asking the crowd for a minute of silence. Buck outlined the song’s crystalline melody with ringing riffs, and drummer Will Champion propelled the track forward with a firm backbeat, inserting a swelling series of rat-a-tat beats before the final hook. Towards the end of the performance, Chris Martin dropped away to let the crowd sing one of Petty’s most famous refrains over and over.
“Free Fallin'” appeared on Petty’s 1989 album Full Moon Fever, which was produced by Jeff Lynne, known for his work in the Electric Light Orchestra. “Free Fallin'” was picked as the LP’s third single, following “I Won’t Back Down” and “Running Down a Dream;” it became the most successful pop single of Petty’s career, reaching Number Seven on the Hot 100. Full Moon Fever went on to sell more than five million copies in the U.S., according to the RIAA.
Petty was found unconscious on Sunday night. “He suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu in the early hours of this morning and was taken to UCLA Medical Center but could not be revived,” longtime manager Tony Dimitriades said in a statement. “He died peacefully at 8:40 p.m. PT surrounded by family, his bandmates and friends.”
“It’s shocking, crushing news,” Petty’s friend and collaborator 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.”