Legendary U.S. Rocker Tom Petty Dies of Cardiac Arrest

Singer, songwriter Tom Petty found unconscious at Malibu home – Dies at hospital later in the evening – musicians and celebrities pay tribute to the legendary performer

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Sixty-six-year-old Tom Petty died Monday night at the UCLA Medical Center after suffering a cardiac arrest. He died peacefully, surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues as was confirmed by his long-time manager, Tony Dimitriades, in a statement made on behalf of the deceased singer’s family.

“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,” said the statement. “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.”

The statement came after some initial confusion during the course of the day, when incorrect reports of his death surfaced. However, the LAPD later tweeted an apology for the inadvertent error.

“The LAPD has no information about the passing of singer Tom Petty. Initial information was inadvertently provided to some media sources. However, the LAPD has no investigative role in this matter. We apologize for any inconvenience in this reporting.”

Petty was found unconscious Monday morning at his Malibu home in Los Angeles and was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center in L.A. where he breathed his last at 8:40 pm.

Tributes and condolences continued to pour in from friends, celebrities, and fellow musicians.

“It’s shocking, crushing news,” Bob Dylan – whom Petty toured with in the late 1980s as part of the Traveling Wilburys group, along with Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne – said to the Los Angeles Times.

“I thought the world of Tom. He was a great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him,” he added.

Born in Gainesville, Florida, on Oct 20, 1950, Tom Earl Petty will be best remembered as the lead singer of “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.”

His interest in rock music was kindled at the early age of 10 when he met Elvis Presley on the set of “Follow that Dream.”

However, Petty admitted in a 2006 interview that it was the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show that really motivated him toward pursuing a career in music.

“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,” he had said. “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.”

True to his word, he dropped out of school at age 17 to play in his newly formed band, Mudcrutch.

During his brief employment at the University of Florida, where he worked with the grounds crew, he had planted a tree which is now called the Tom Petty tree.

Petty did not have much success with Mudcrutch despite the fact that the band included future members of Heartbreakers in Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench.

Eventually, the band, which brought him fame and recognition, came into existence 1976. The group’s debut album, named after the band itself, was a bigger success in Britain than in the U.S.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ second album, You’re Gonna Get It! featured for the first time in the Top 40 with hit singles “I Need to Know” and “Listen to Her Heart.”

The band’s third album, Damn the Torpedoes, which included runaway hit singles “Don’t Do Me Like That”, “Here Comes My Girl” and “Refugee,” sold close to 2 million copies – a triple Platinum effort.

In the late 1980s, Petty came together with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne in the band, Traveling Wilburys, which had its fair share of success.

His 1989 solo debut album, Full Moon Forever featuring hits I Won’t Back Down, Free Fallin’ and Runnin’ Down a Dream, went five-time Platinum and No. 3 on Billboard 200.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed at the sold-out show at BST Hyde Park in London as recently as July of this year, where he told the Hyde Park crowd:

“To be here on such a beautiful London summer is amazing. We are celebrating our 40th year together so we’re gonna look at this show like a giant record, and we’re gonna drop the needle all over it!”

The band then entertained the Hyde Park crowd with their signature hits like Free Fallin, Don’t Come Around Here No More, I Won’t Back Down, You Don’t Know How It Feels, Mary Jane’s Last Dance, Refugee and Learning to Fly.

One of the highlights of the show was a special rendition of the song Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around with “honorary band member” Stevie Nicks.

After the group’s last 40th-anniversary performance at the Hollywood Bowl in September this year, he conceded to Rolling Stones that this was probably the group’s last major tour together.

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.”

Rest in Peace Tom Petty!

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