Music icon Tom Petty died on Monday after suffering from cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu, California, according to Tony Dimitriades, long-time manager of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. He was 66.
“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,” Dimitriades said in a statement on behalf of the family. “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 8:40pm PT surrounded by family, his bandmates and friends.”
Petty and his long-time band, the Heartbreakers, first came to the music scene in the 1970s. The rocker had a string of hits over the years both with the band and as a solo artist, including “American Girl,” “Free Fallin,” and “I Won’t Back Down.”
It was with third album, “Damn the Torpedoes,” that he and the band broke through to the mainstream. The album went platinum and produced hits such as “Refugee,” and “Don’t Do Me Like That.”
Petty, who was born in Gainesville, Florida became hooked on rock and roll when he met superstar Elvis Presley on a movie set, he was just 11 years old at the time.
At age 14, he joined his first band, The Sundowners, in high school. He quit the band after getting into an argument with the drummer and joined another group called The Epics, which included Tom Leadon, the brother of Eagles guitarist Bernie Leadon.
The Epics later changed their name to Mudcrutch, and Petty traveled to Los Angeles in search of a record deal for the group.
“We realized Tom was the real musician of the band,” fellow band member Rick Rucker told the Orlando Sentinel in 2006.
The band soon disbanded despite landing a deal. A new group that included Petty and two former Mudcrutch members was formed in 1975, known as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Petty, after pionerring the heartland rock sound, went solo in 1989 before reuniting with the Heartbreakers three years later. Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. And they just finished summer tour with three performances at the Hollywood Bowl last week.
Petty was also became an actor. He starred alongside Kevin Costner in the 1997 movie, The Postman. He was also the voice behind Elroy “Lucky” Kleinschmidt in the animated comedy series, King of the Hill.
A 2015 biography of Petty featured the rocker’s dark moments and his struggle with heroin addiction in 1997, following the end of his 20-year marriage and a failed album.
“Tried to go cold turkey, and that wouldn’t work,” Petty said in the memoir. “It’s an ugly f***ing thing.”
In 2007 interview with CNN, Petty said that he loved music as much as it loved him.
“Music, as far as I have seen in the world so far, is the only real magic that I know,” he said. “There is something really honest and clean and pure and it touches you in your heart.”