Classic Rock Bottom

10/2/2017 by Billboard Staff , The Hollywood Reporter

Tom Petty has died after suffering cardiac arrest The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. Petty's manager says he suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu in the early hours in the morning and passed at 8:40 p.m after being taken to UCLA Medical Center.

Earlier in the day, authorities told THR they responded to a Malibu home around 10:52 a.m. 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."

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers just wrapped their 40th anniversary tour at the Hollywood Bowl last week.

Petty was born in Gainesville, FL, on Oct. 20, 1950. Despite his easy-going, 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 final studio effort.)

Tom Petty photographed by Joe Pugliese in his Malibu studio on June 26, 2014.
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Tom Petty's Top 20 Billboard Hot 100 Hits

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 re-released). 1978's You're Gonna Get It! fared slightly better commercially, but it was the band's third album, 1979's Damn the Torpedoes!, that found Petty break 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 '80s, 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 most blockbuster 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 throughout 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," he told Rolling Stone in the '70s of his style, which -- despite his knack for inventive songcraft -- would stay largely the same throughout his career.

A staunch advocate for artists controlling their careers, Petty wasn't afraid to speak out against the music industry, even if he was far more forgiving when it came to other creators. "I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there," Petty told Rolling Stone in 2006 when asked about perceived similarities between a Red Hot Chili Peppers song and his hit "Mary Jane's Last Dance." "And a lot of rock n' roll songs sound alike. Ask Chuck Berry.... I don't believe in lawsuits much. I think there are enough frivolous lawsuits in this country without people fighting over pop songs."

Despite his lifetime on rock's A-list, Petty didn't actually notch his first No. 1 album until 2014's Hypnotic Eye. Speaking to Billboard around the time of that release, Petty said, “The only good thing about getting older is you get smart enough to avoid unnecessary problems. You know what’s worth spending time on and what’s not. If I had known that at 20, life would have been so much easier, but you have to experience all these things so you figure out how to find your way through the woods.”

Petty was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

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I never was a big fan, but I certainly regard him as a very important factor in especially american rock-music.

He seemed to be "one of the good guys", and again a sad too early loss mostly for his family.

I never really bought a Tom Petty-album, but I bought the first Travelling Wilbury's back in 1988, and I bought a very good informative DVD about Tom Petty's history, 10 years ago or so. I enjoyed that very much.

My favorite Petty-song is probably "In To The Great Wide Open".

Let's not hope this is a new start of "big rock-stars passing on".


Didn't care much for him until he joined Traveling Wilburys. After that I bought his Full Moon Fever and really payed attention when he released a new album. He is a true American idol.. and not a fake one.


This is quite upsetting.  For me, it compares to Robin Williams death, and also Chris Cornell's death earlier this year.  It is totally, utterly shocking.  

When I was younger, it was pretty much the hits for me.  It really stayed that way even into my older age.  But just a few years back, I dove into his catalog, and I'm very thankful that I did.  I wouldn't group myself as a superfan or anything like that, but I am a fan.  He was never a "just the hits" kind of guy.  Luckily for me, I figured it out.  I'm currently reading a second biography on him, which I've been reading for a month or so (I'm a slow reader, sometimes not more than 15 pages in a week's time).  Both books are very good.

I've also been listening to Tom Petty Radio on Sirius XM channel 31 when I've been in my vehicle since the news broke. They play a lot of the live stuff on there and it's amazing how great the songs sound live.  I heard an awesome live version of Don't Come Around Here No More, recorded on this latest tour.  The man was a tremendous songwriter. Take for instance the song Runaway Trains.  Never a song that I've given much thought to before, but I've heard it twice on the radio since yesterday, and it's goodness really sneaks up on you.  Check it out if you can.  And check out the box set Playback.  Six discs with plenty of true rarities, many songs that could have and most definitely should have been included on proper albums.

I can only imagine how devastating this is to his family and his band mates.  Some of those guys have been in a band with him for more than 40 years.  

All I can really say is, if you haven't spent any time with the TP&TH's catalog, you owe it to yourself to do so.  Tom Petty and his band are true American icons.


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