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Tom Petty has died after suffering cardiac arrest, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. The singer-songwriter was found unconscious at his home in Malibu in the early hours of Monday morning and passed away at 8:40 p.m local time after being taken to UCLA Medical Center, according to Petty’s manager.
Earlier in the day, authorities told THR they responded to a Malibu home around 10:52 p.m. Sunday for a man who suffered a heart attack. Emergency responders were able to get a pulse back, but the man was in critical condition, THR was told at the time.
“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,” Petty’s manager said in a statement. “He died peacefully surrounded by family, his bandmates and friends.”
Full statement: pic.twitter.com/FGCVI5yIaa
— Tom Petty (@tompetty) October 3, 2017
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers just wrapped their 40th anniversary tour at the Hollywood Bowl last week.
Petty was born in Gainesville, Fla., on Oct. 20, 1950. Despite his easygoing, affable persona, Petty endured a rough childhood, living in poverty with an alcoholic, abusive father and a mother who was in fear of her husband. But a childhood handshake with Elvis Presley in the ‘50s piqued his interest in rock ‘n’ roll, and at the age of 17, inspired by The Beatles and The Byrds, Petty dropped out of high school to play rock with his band Mudcrutch. After that band broke up, Petty and several of its members formed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which catapulted him to the forefront of rock music for the next 40 years. (Mudcrutch reformed in 2007 and released two studio albums, 2008’s self-titled and 2016’s 2, his most recent studio effort.)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ self-titled album dropped in 1976, and although it would eventually go gold and produce two classic rock radio staples with the singles “Breakdown” and “American Girl,” the album (and those singles) weren’t big hits upon initial release (“Breakdown” would later peak at No. 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 after being rereleased). You’re Gonna Get It! in 1978 fared slightly better commercially, but it was the band’s third album, 1979’s Damn the Torpedoes!, that saw Petty breaking through to massive success. That No. 2-peaking, triple-platinum album produced two Top 20 hits with “Refugee” and “Don’t Do Me Like That.”
While new wave and synth-pop took hold in the 1980s, Petty stuck to his no-frills heartland rock style while still appealing to a young fan base. Platinum albums, massive tours and hit singles (including the No. 3-peaking duet “Stop Draggin‘ My Heart Around” with Stevie Nicks) followed, and he began to branch out creatively from the Hearbreakers as the decade came to a close.
After joining George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne in the supergroup-to-end-all-supergroups Traveling Wilburys — whose 1988 debut hit No. 3 on the Billboard 200 — Petty continued to work with Lynne on his solo debut, 1989’s Full Moon Fever. It would prove to be his biggest release since Damn the Torpedoes! a decade earlier, going five-times platinum, hitting No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and producing arguably his best-known song, the inescapable “Free Fallin‘,” a No. 7 Hot 100 hit. Within the space of two years, Petty followed his runaway hit solo LP with another Traveling Wilburys album as well as a new Heartbreakers album. Barely slowing his pace over the next three decades, Petty continued releasing albums, whether with the Heartbreakers, solo or Mudcrutch.
“We ain’t no punk band, we ain’t folk rock, jazz rock, or any of that bullshit. Just rock, and we don’t put no other name on it than that. We’d be stupid if we did,” Petty told Rolling Stone in the late ’70s of his style, which — despite his knack for inventive songcraft — would stay largely the same throughout his career.
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