Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, Madison Square Gardens July 16, 1986 Photo courtesy of Patrick Harbron
Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, Madison Square Gardens July 16, 1986 Photo courtesy of Patrick Harbron

RIP: Tom Petty

Tom Petty (born Thomas Earl Petty), one of the most popular American rock 'n rollers of the past 40 years, has died, on Oct. 2, age 66. Petty reportedly suffered a major heart attack early Monday morning and was hospitalized in Los Angeles. There were conflicting media reports on Monday about his condition, and the LAPD at one stage apologized for 'inadvertently' and prematurely providing information about his death.

Late on Monday night, Petty’s manager Tony Dimitriades issued this statement: “On behalf of the Tom Petty family we are devastated 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 8:40PST surrounded by family, his bandmates and friends”.

During the day, social media had gone into overdrive, with many of Petty's colleagues expressing their condolences before official notification of his passing. “It’s shocking, crushing news,” 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."

"Thank you for giving so much, a lifetime of inspiration and love. Your music has changed this world for the better," tweeted Ryan Adams, while Jason Isbell posted that "I can't think of an important moment in my life without an accompanying Tom Petty song. Every night we walk off stage to his music. So sad." Bryan Adams tweeted "RIP Tom Petty. Thanks for all the great rockin' music, hard to believe you're gone."

Dylan, Petty, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne worked together as The Traveling Wilburys, a 'supergroup' that put out two albums, 1988's Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 (certified 6x platinum in Canada) and 1990's Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 (platinum sales in Canada).

The bulk of Petty's career found him recording and touring with The Heartbreakers. Just last Monday (Sept. 25), at the Hollywood Bowl, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers had concluded an extensive series of North American dates to mark the 40th anniversary of their self-titled debut album.

Born in Gainesville, Florida, Petty started in area bands in the late '60s, including Mudcrutch, a group that featured future Heartbreakers' Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. After relocating to Los Angeles, Petty formed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in late 1975, with their eponymous debut released on Shelter Records in 1977.

It first found success in the UK, but the singles "Breakdown" and "American Girl" gradually found traction Stateside. The group's second album, You're Gonna Get It!, went gold in the US, and their commercial heyday came in the '80s, with a string of hit singles and such top-selling albums as Damn The Torpedoes, Hard Promises, Long After Dark, and Southern Accents.

Released under his name (minus The Heartbreakers) were 1989's Full Moon Fever, 1994's Wildflowers, and 1996's Songs and Music from 'She's the One,' even though many of The Heartbreakers contributed to those records.

2006's Highway Companion was his final solo album, followed by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers albums Mojo (2010) and Hypnotic Eye (2014).

Noted film director Peter Bogdanovich explored the Heartbreakers story in his four-hour 2007 documentary Runnin’ Down a Dream.

Petty was known as an outspoken advocate for the protection of the rights of artists, frequently butting heads with record labels. Earlier this year, he was named MusiCares person of the year for his “career-long interest in defending artists’ rights” as well as for his charitable work with the homeless population of Los Angeles.

Throughout his career, he sold more than 80m records worldwide. 12 albums hit the top 10 of the Billboard 200 albums chart and his Greatest Hits set has been certified 12x platinum by the RIAA.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 2002, praising them as “durable, resourceful, hard-working, likeable and unpretentious.”

Sources: The Guardian, Rolling Stone, Wikipedia, Billboard

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