Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Tom Petty, who with his band The Heartbreakers helped spearhead back-to-basics heartland rock in the late 1970s, died Monday in a Los Angeles hospital after he suffered cardiac arrest, according to his spokeswoman Carla Sacks.
EMTs responding at Petty’s Malibu home had found a pulse, but doctors at UCLA Santa Monica Hospital later determined he had no brain activity and a decision was made to end life-support measures. Petty was 66.
“It’s shocking, crushing news,” music icon Bob Dylan, Petty’s friend and a bandmate in the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys, told Rolling Stone in a statement. “I thought the world of Tom. He was great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him.”
“No words. just thanks. @tompetty,” tweeted filmmaker Cameron Crowe, who memorably had Tom Cruise sing along to Petty’s “Free Fallin’ ” on the radio in “Jerry Maguire” (1996).
Petty was born Oct. 20, 1950, in Gainesville, Florida, the elder of two sons of Earl and Kitty Petty. After suffering through what he recalled as a physically and verbally abusive relationship with his father, Petty found refuge in music and dropped out of school at 17 to help form his first band, Mudcrutch. Initially a bass player, he later became its frontman and primary songwriter. His bandmates included future Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench.
After marrying first wife, Jane Benyo, in 1974, Petty moved to Los Angeles, where Mudcrutch soon disbanded. Petty eventually formed his own band, and Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers released its namesake debut album in 1976. Two albums later, 1979’s “Damn the Torpedoes,” with songs including “Refugee,” “Here Comes My Girl” and “Don’t Do Me Like That,” reached No. 2 on the Billboard chart. “Hard Promises” in 1981 produced the hit “The Waiting.” Several more albums followed, with 1985’s “Southern Accent” containing the hit “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”
Petty’s 1988 collaboration with Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne as the Traveling Wilburys resulted in a triple-platinum album and a Grammy Award for best rock performance. Petty’s subsequent solo album “Full Moon Fever” gave him one of his biggest singles, “Free Fallin’.”
His personal life ran less smoothly. His marriage to Benyo, with whom he had daughters Adria and AnnaKim, ended in 1996, and Petty developed a heroin addiction. He eventually overcame this and in 2001 married Dana York. In 2014, his band’s 13th album, “Hypnotic Eye,” became their first to reach No. 1 on the Billboard chart.
With The Associated Press
Highlights of Tom Petty’s works
- “American Girl” (1976)
- “Refugee” (1979)
- “Don’t Do Me Like That” (1979)
- “The Waiting” (1981)
- “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (1981) with Stevie Nicks
- “You Got Lucky” (1982)
- “Don’t Come Around Here No More” (1985)
- “I Won’t Back Down” (1989)
- “Runnin’ Down a Dream” (1989)
- “Free Fallin’ ” (1989)
- “Learning to Fly” (1991)
- “FM” (1978)
- “Made in Heaven” (1987)
- “The Postman” (1997)
- “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin’ Down a Dream” (2007 documentary)
- “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” (1987)
- “The Larry Sanders Show” (1998)
- “The Simpsons” (2002)
- “King of the Hill” (2004-09) the voice of Elroy “Lucky” Kleinschmidt
OTHER NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENTS
- Performed as part of The Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, George Harrison and Roy Orbison
- Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2002)