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Byrds co-founder Chris Hillman salutes Tom Petty with 'Wildflowers'

Byrds co-founder Chris Hillman salutes Tom Petty with 'Wildflowers'
Chris Hillman, founding member of the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Desert Rose Band, among others, saluted Tom Petty in his performance in October at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. (Randy Lewis / Los Angeles Times)

"This is for Tom," Chris Hillman announced from the stage of the Troubadour in West Hollywood, and that's all he said before launching into his rendition of Tom Petty's "Wildflowers" three weeks after Petty died unexpectedly on Oct. 2 at age 66.

A video of that performance, offered up as a tribute to the veteran rock star, has been posted on Petty's website and is available to view below.

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Hillman's show at the Troubadour had been scheduled much earlier and was to have been both a homecoming — the venerable club is where Hillman and his fellow band members launched the Byrds more than a half-century ago—and a celebration of the release of Hillman's solo album "Bidin' My Time," which Petty co-produced.

Petty's song was chosen as the closing track of the collection, which Petty spoke of glowingly when he sat down with The Times for what turned out to be his final interview, just five days before he died.

Hillman's show had been scheduled to take place a week earlier, but it was postponed to make way for a private memorial service for Petty's family and friends.

Petty, with some encouragement from Hillman's longtime musical collaborator Herb Pedersen, who worked with Petty on producing "Bidin' My Time," approached Hillman about making a late-career solo album, something Hillman said he didn't figure he would ever do again before the offer surfaced.

"I asked Tom, 'Are you sure you want to do this?' And then he asked me, 'Do you want me to do it?'" Hillman told me when we discussed the genesis of the album in August. "We went back and forth like that a couple of times. At one point I told him, 'You haven't even heard any of my [new] songs.' And he said, 'I'm not worried about that'."

The album generated laudatory reviews upon its release in September, and Hillman's live version of "Wildflowers," featuring Pedersen, multi-instrumentalist John Jorgenson and bassist Mark Fain, served as a bittersweet farewell to their longtime friend, musical disciple and Hillman's fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member.

Petty's death was ruled by the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner to be the result of an accidental overdose of medications he had been taking to manage pain from a cracked hip, which graduated to a full break while he was on the road in 2017 for the Heartbreakers' 40th Anniversary Tour.

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