Legendary rocker Tom Petty has died at the age of 66. As previously reported, Petty was rushed to the hospital Sunday night after he was found unconscious and not breathing, in full cardiac arrest. His condition was critical from the moment he was found and there were conflicting reports about his status on Monday afternoon. Petty’s passing was reported prematurely late Monday, then retracted by news outlets, but his death was confirmed by his camp hours later.
A statement attributed to his manager Tony Dimitriades said, “On behalf of the Tom Petty family, we are devistated to announce the untimely death of our father, husband, brother, leader and friend, Tom Petty. 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. He died peacefully at 8:40 PM PST surrounded by family, his bandmates, and friends.”
Petty racked up countless Rock hits over more than four decades of musicmaking, such as “American Girl,” “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin,” “The Waiting,” “Breakdown” and many, many more. He was born in Gainesville, FL in 1950 and joined the band Mudcrutch while he was still a teenager. Mudcrutch broke up, but Petty stuck together with guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench to form Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ self-titled debut album came out in 1976 and saw a slow, steady growth in popularity. After a label issue between MCA and ABC Records, Petty released their sophomore record Damn the Torpedoes, which was a smash hit. The band released a number of albums throughout the ’80s and in 1988, Petty teamed up with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne to form the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys. In 1989, Petty released his first solo record, Full Moon Fever, which featured “Free Fallin.'”
In the early ’90s, Petty and the Heartbreakers scored another hit record with Into the Great Wide Open before he went solo again with Wildflowers. However, by the late ’90s, Petty’s marriage fell apart and he became addicted to heroin. After getting clean, he returned to his music career but Heartbreakers bassist Howie Epstein was also battling a heroin addiction. He was fired from the band in 2002 and died of an overdose the following year.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. Petty continued to release albums with and without the Heartbreakers over the next 15 years and became a touring mainstay. In 2008 he reformed Mudcrutch, who released two albums and toured following the reunion.
In 2017, Petty and the Hearbreakers celebrated their 40th anniversary and Petty told Rolling Stone he expected it to be their last major North American tour. The trek wrapped up just weeks ago with a three-night stand at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.