Multi-Grammy award winning Rock musician Tom Petty, is dead. He was found unconscious in his home in Malibu and transported to nearby UCLA Santa Monica Hospital.
Emergency physicians reported that in addition to his state of unconsciousness, Petty was not breathing and showed no brain activity. Cause of death was disclosed as massive cardiac arrest.
Petty, 66, was born in Gainesville, Florida and began his musical legacy with a band named “Mudcrunch”, at the young age of 17. Eventually his odyssey found him establishing himself with a new band in Los Angeles, among whom were Mudcrunch members Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. The song, “Learning To Fly” is considered to be a somewhat biographical account of that phase of his career.
The first recording from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1976), self titled – is marking the 40th anniversary of it’s release. The album included the top 40 single, “Breakdown”. Although it did not hit the charts immediately, its re-release in 1977 proved to be a breakthrough for Petty and the band and was the first in a steady stream of Gold and Platinum records.
Petty was bitten by the musical bug at age eleven, after having been introduced by his uncle to Elvis Presley on the set of the Presley movie “Follow That Dream”, which was being filmed in Ocala.
Reflecting his success with rock music fans, Petty was awarded three Grammys and 18 nominations. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. The Heartbreakers recorded 13 albums and Petty released 3 solo LPs.
Petty told interviewers in 2006, that it was 3 years later that he became certain that he had to become a rock musician, having seen the Beatles performing on their American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show.
“The minute I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show — and it’s true of thousands of guys — there was the way out. There was the way to do it. You get your friends and you’re a self-contained unit. And you make the music. And it looked like so much fun. It was something I identified with. I had never been hugely into sports. … I had been a big fan of Elvis. But I really saw in the Beatles that here’s something I could do. I knew I could do it. It wasn’t long before there were groups springing up in garages all over the place.”
Tom Petty is also known for his collaboration with some of rock’s most legendary artists – Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Jeff Lynne, as “Charlie T. Wilbury Jr” in the superstar ensemble, “The Traveling Wilburys” – a roots / Americana styled venture that produced two critically and popularly acclaimed recordings.
“It’s shocking, crushing news,” Petty’s friend and Traveling Wilburys bandmate Bob Dylan tells 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.”
It seems ironic now, that Petty told interviewers at the beginning of his most recent tour which kicked off this April, that:
“I’m thinking it may be the last trip around the country. It’s very likely we’ll keep playing, but will we take on 50 shows in one tour? I don’t think so. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was thinking this might be the last big one. We’re all on the backside of our sixties. I have a granddaughter now I’d like to see as much as I can. I don’t want to spend my life on the road. This tour will take me away for four months. With a little kid, that’s a lot of time.”
And illustrating the fact that life (and death) is unpredictable, Petty also commented at the time that, “We’re very aware that time is finite. At the end of the year we’ll say, ‘What do you feel like doing?’ Then we’ll figure out where to go next.”
Petty’s major hits, include “I Won’t Back Down”, “Refugee”, “American Girl”, “Learning To Fly”, “Don’t Do Me Like That”, “Freefallin” and “Even The Losers”.
Here is Petty performing the hit, “I Won’t Back Down”: