Tom Petty: Leader of the Heartbreakers Dead at 66

Tom Petty died Monday night, his manager confirmed. He led Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for 40 years and was also a member of The Traveling Wilburys.

Petty, who went into cardiac arrest at his Malibu, California home Sunday night, was 66. He leaves his second wife, Dana, and two daughters by his first wife Jane: Adria and AnnaKim Violette.

Tony Dimitriades, the longtime manager of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, said, “On behalf of the Tom Petty family, we are devastated to announce the untimely death of 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 p.m. PT surrounded by family, his bandmates and friends.”

The Los Angeles Times quoted fellow Wilbury Bob Dylan as saying, "It’s shocking, crushing news. I thought the world of Tom. He was great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him."

  • Born Thomas Earl Petty in Gainesville, Florida on October 20th, 1950.
  • Developed his interest in rock and roll at age 10 after meeting Elvis Presley through his uncle, who was working on the set of the movie Follow That Dream, which was shooting in nearby Ocala, Florida.
  • Knew he wanted to be in a band the moment he saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and became a singer and mostly rhythm guitarist.
  • His first band was called The Epics. It evolved into Mudcrutch, which evolved into Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, who released their self-titled debut album in 1976.
  • Petty and the Heartbreakers released 13 studio albums. Petty released three solo albums. plus two with The Traveling Wilburys and two with Mudcrutch, which re-formed in 2007.
  • Solo and with the Heartbreakers, Petty had 10 Top 20 singles (and 16 Top 40) on the Billboard Hot 100, and 34 on Billboard's rock charts. Among the best known are "The Waiting," "You Got Lucky," "Don't Come Around Here No More," "Learning to Fly" and "Free Fallin'," which was his highest-charting hit, peaking at number-seven.
  • He also had two Top 20 duets with Stevie Nicks, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" and "Needles and Pins"
  • He won three Grammy Awards -- two with the Heartbreakers and one with the Wilburys -- and three MTV Video Music Awards. 

As the founder, leader, lead singer, guitarist and main songwriter of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Petty had a profound impact on rock and roll from the last half of the 1970s through to the present. The band's self-titled 1976 debut album provided the template for what was to come in the following 40 years, combining influences from major forces such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds and Bob Dylan with those of some of the original pioneers of 1950s and early '60s rock. As Petty sang on that first album, "Anything that's rock 'n' roll's fine."

Petty and the band became champions of artists' rights when their third album, Damn the Torpedos, and fourth album, Hard Promises, both were the subjects of legal battles with their record label, the first when his contract was sold from one label to another, the second over an attempt by his label to raise the list price on so-called "superstar" releases. In the late '80s, he prevailed in another legal battle over a sound-alike song to his "Mary's New Car" being used in a car ad.      

In 1988, Petty teamed with fellow rock legends Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne of ELO and Roy Orbison in The Traveling Wilburys. Each member took on pseudonym for the faux "brother" group. Petty's was Charlie T. Junior. They recorded two albums before Orbison's death spelled the end of the partnership.

In 1989, Petty became a solo artist as well as a bandleader, recording the first of his three solo albums, Full Moon Fever. Even on his own, he never strayed too far from the Heartbreakers, as their guitarist Mike Campbell was a major player on all three, and the Heartbreakers contributed to two of them, particularly the second, Wildflowers.

In 2002, Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with Bob Dylan's son, Jakob Dylan of The Wallflowers, giving their induction speech.

In 2007, Petty and the Heartbreakers' career was the subject of a four-hour documentary film, Runnin' Down a Dream, which was directed by Peter Bogdanovich.

Earlier this year, Petty was honored as MusiCares Person of the Year by the Recording Academy. Also, this year, he and the Heartbreakers embarked on a 40th Anniversary Tour. It ended just last week with three shows at the Hollywood Bowl. His last performance was on September 28th.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content