Tom Petty is dead at 66. Petty’s manager Tony Dimitriades confirmed the news to The New York Times after conflicting reports from TMZ earlier today that said he was still “clinging to life.” He was rushed to the hospital last night after he was found in his Mailbu home, not breathing and in cardiac arrest. According to TMZ, he arrived at the hospital with no brain activity and the decision was made to pull life support.
Full statement: pic.twitter.com/FGCVI5yIaa
— Tom Petty (@tompetty) October 3, 2017
Petty has been a fixture in rock music for the better part of 50 years. He’s never drawn much attention to himself, but he’s made hit after hit, and there are very few people, living or dead, who can compete with his catalog of car-radio singalongs. Petty grew up in Gainesville, Florida, and he dropped out of high school at age 17 to join the band Mudcrutch. The band, which also included Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, broke up in 1975. But both of them eventually joined Petty’s backing band the Heartbreakers. Petty and the Heartbreakers released their self-titled debut album in 1976. It wasn’t initially a big seller, but the singles “Breakdown” and “American Girl” eventually picked up steam and became radio staples.
That was the start of a long, long career, one that picked up steam as it went on. In 1979, Petty and the Heartbreakers released Damn The Torpedoes, an album that took Petty into the upper reaches of rock stardom. That was Petty’s biggest album for a long time, but he continued to crank out hits steadily. And while his sound was an immediately accessible heartland-rock style, he continued to toy with it, adding synths and studio effects, working with people like Stevie Nicks and Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart. Petty and the band also toured heavily, and he made mind-bending and sometimes controversial music videos, which dominated MTV so completely that he won a Video Vanguard Award in 1994.
In 1988, Petty joined fellow rock legends George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne in the short-lived supergroup the Traveling Wilburys. And in 1989, Petty released the solo album Full Moon Fever, which he co-produced with Campbell and Lynne. The album, an absolute monster success, yielded colossal hits like “Free Fallin’,” “I Won’t Back Down,” and “Runnin’ Down A Dream.”
Petty was making huge hits well into the ’90s. He worked with Rick Rubin on 1994’s Wildflowers, and he soundtracked the 1996 movie She’s The One. He started hosting a Sirius XM radio show in 2005 and played the Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2008. Petty and the Heartbreakers’ last album was 2014’s Hypnotic Eye, and he and the reunited Mudcrutch released a second album, 2, last year. Below, watch some of his videos.