Tom Petty, Legendary Rocker and Hit-Maker, Dead at 66
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had just finished touring in honor of their 40th anniversary.
Heartbroken. That’s how fans of legendary rocker Tom Petty are feeling.
Petty, 66, had been rushed to UCLA Santa Monica hospital in full cardiac arrest Monday, was found to have no brain activity there, and was then taken off life support.
The news of Petty’s death had at one point been confirmed by CBS News on Monday evening but was later retracted, citing an erroneous LAPD source (the department apologized for the mistake via Twitter). Finally, Petty’s longtime manager, Tony Dimitriades, released this statement, confirming the rocker’s death:
Full statement: pic.twitter.com/FGCVI5yIaa
— Tom Petty (@tompetty) October 3, 2017
A product of the Gainesville, Florida, music scene—an early guitar teacher had been Eagles’ axeman Don Felder—Petty was an early acolyte of the Byrds’ 12-string-Rickenbacker folk-rock sound, and with his band the Heartbreakers, first entered the U.S. charts in 1977 with “Breakdown.”
The band would go on to become one of America’s greatest, scoring a laundry list of hit songs, including “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Here Comes My Girl,” “Listen to Her Heart,” “Refugee,” “American Girl,” “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” “The Waiting,” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” His 1991 album Into the Great Wide Open, spawned hits in the title track and “Learning to Fly,” which hit No. 1 (others included the aforementioned “The Waiting,” “You Got Lucky,” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”).
Petty also had a wildly successful “solo” career (in quotes because the Heartbreakers often appeared as guests on the records), releasing Full Moon Fever to critical acclaim in 1989, featuring hit singles like “Free Fallin’” and “Won’t Back Down” (the album would go on to be certified six times platinum); and 1994’s Wildflowers, which included the hit single “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” which received heavy airplay at the time, despite being bleeped for its reference to marijuana.
The year before his mega-success with Fever, Petty had formed supergroup the Traveling Wilburys with fellow legends George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne, who scored a hit with “Handle With Care” (it reached No. 2). A second single, “End of the Line,” would also reach No. 2. (All members would appear as guests on Fever.) The band would eventually produce a second album that arrived in 1990.
In 2002, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Dylan’s son, Jakob.
Five years after their induction, Petty got his high school band, Mudcrutch, back together, putting out a pair of well-received albums (longtime Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench were also in the band).
In 2014, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers would surprisingly land their first and only No. 1 album with Hypnotic Eye. (Damn the Torpedoes, which came out in 1979, and 2010’s Mojo, had gotten close, both peaking at No. 2.)
Recently, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had been touring the country in honor of their 40th anniversary, playing a panoply of their hits, as well as a number of deep cuts, such as “Rockin’ Around (With You),” their first song on their first-ever record. The final stop on the tour had been at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on Sept. 25 (watch a clip of the show above).
Petty had also recently produced Byrds’ co-founder Chris Hillman’s latest album, on which the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer had covered Petty’s “Wildflowers.”
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