OCTOBER 2, 2017 – Singer/songwriter/musician TOM PETTY (b. October 20, 1950 in Gainesville, Florida as Thomas Earl Petty) died after being pulled off life support at UCLA Santa Monica Hospital in California in the wake of cardiac arrest suffered in his Malibu home on Sunday night, October 1st. Petty was cremated and on October 16th a private service was held in Pacific Palisades, California.Petty had recently wrapped a lengthy North American tour, ending at the Hollywood Bowl on September 25th.
The Florida native was a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer best known for a string of hits with his band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Their most popular tracks include “I Won’t Back Down,” “Runnin’ Down a Dream” and “American Girl.”Petty’s interest in rock and roll music began at age ten when he met Elvis Presley. In the summer of 1961, his uncle was working on the set of Presley’s film “Follow That Dream” in nearby Ocala, Florida, and invited Petty to come down and watch the shoot.
He instantly became an Elvis Presley fan, and when he returned that Saturday he was greeted by his friend Keith Harben and soon traded his Wham-O slingshot for a collection of Elvis 45s.In a 2006 interview on the National Public Radio program Fresh Air, Petty explained how he came to decide on becoming a musician. “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.”One of his first guitar teachers was Don Felder, a fellow Gainesville resident, who would later join the Eagles.
As a young man, Petty worked briefly on the grounds crew for the University of Florida, but never attended as a student. An Ogeechee lime tree that he planted while employed at the University is now called the Tom Petty tree (despite the fact that Petty does not recall planting any trees). He also worked briefly as a gravedigger.Petty also overcame a difficult relationship with his father, who found it hard to accept that his son was “a mild-mannered kid who was interested in the arts” and subjected him to verbal and physical abuse on a regular basis. Petty was extremely close to his mother, and remains close to his brother Bruce.Shortly after forming his musical aspirations, Petty started a band known as the Epics, later to evolve into Mudcrutch. Although the band, which featured future Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell, keyboardist Benmont Tench, Tom Leadon (the brother of ex-Eagle Bernie Leadon) on guitar, and Randall Marsh on drums, were popular in Gainesville, their recordings went unnoticed by a mainstream audience. However, their only single “Depot Street” remains popular among fans. The original Mudcrutch included guitarist Danny Roberts who was later replaced by bassist Charlie Souza.After Mudcrutch split up, Petty reluctantly agreed to pursue a solo career.
Tench decided to form his own group, whose sound Petty appreciated. Eventually, Petty and Campbell collaborated with Tench and fellow members Ron Blair and Stan Lynch, resulting in the first lineup of the Heartbreakers. Their eponymous debut album “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers” gained minute popularity among American audiences, achieving greater success in Britain.
The single “Breakdown” was re-released in 1977 and peaked at #40 in early 1978 after the band toured in the UK in support of Nils Lofgren. The debut album was released by Shelter Records, which at that time was distributed by ABC RecordsThe Heartbreakers’ career was igniting, but Petty became mired in a legal battle after trying to renegotiate his contract; by mid-1979 he’d filed for bankruptcy. After nine months of litigation, Petty signed to Backstreet Records, a new MCA affiliate. His triumphant return, the now-classic “Damn the Torpedoes” hit #2, selling over 2.5 million copies, and established the singer as a star. Both of the album’s singles, “Don’t Do Me Like That” (#10, 1979) and “Refugee” (#15, 1980), did well.Petty always had a populist view of rock, and in 1981 he again got into another record-company hassle by challenging MCA’s intention to issue his new disc, “Hard Promises,” with a $9.98 list price, one of the first albums to charge a dollar above the standard price point. After he threatened to withhold the LP, or entitle it $8.98 and organize fan protest letters, the company relented. Led by “The Waiting,” album came out at $8.98 and went on to platinum sales status. He forever became a friend of the record-buying public.The start of the 1980s found him working with others. Connecting with Stevie Nicks for a track on her “Bella Donna” record, the pair enjoyed a smash with 1981’s “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” That year he also produced Del Shannon’s comeback, “Drop Down and Get Me”.
In 1982, “You Got Lucky” (#20) from “Long After Dark,” reiterated the veteran strengths of the Heartbreakers, but they suffered a bump in the road with bassist Ron Blair departure. It made room for the arrival of ex–John Hiatt sideman Howie Epstein. They instantly began work on a new disc. Three years in the making, “Southern Accents” was hard going; frustrated by the creative process, Petty punched a wall in the studio and broke his left hand. The album, co-produced by Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, found Petty achieving a new lyrical maturity and, with neo-psychedelic “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” scoring a #13 hit.On May 17, 1987, right before Petty and the Heartbreakers embarked upon a world tour with Bob Dylan, Petty’s house burned down, causing nearly a million dollars’ worth of damage. The rock star got his wife and 5-year-old daughter out safely, and then did his best to fight the blaze alongside his housekeeper (who sustained minor injuries after her hair caught fire). Petty later remembered picking up a hose only to have it melt in his hands. Firefighters did their best, but the fire burned through the house quickly. The only room that went unscathed was Tom’s basement studio.
The Pettys had lost nearly everything. Annie Lennox came to the rescue with clothes for the family (her Eurythmics partner Dave Stewart lived next door). Without a home to stay in, Tom took his family out on the already planned tour with the Heartbreakers, who were opening for and backing Bob Dylan.More shocking than the loss of their home and possessions was the fact that investigators determined that the fire was not an accident. According to a report, an arsonist had drenched the house’s back staircase in lighter fluid. Petty and his family were deeply disturbed by the fact that someone had wanted to kill them.“We were shaken for years by it,” Petty admitted in Paul Zollo’s 2005 book “Conversations with Tom Petty”: “It’s sort of like being raped, I would imagine. It really took a long time. And it was 10 times as bad, because you knew that somebody just went and did it. Somebody tried to off you.”Petty said that, as a result of the blaze, he had trouble using the word “fire” in his song lyrics. However, he did write one of his most famous tunes about the experience.
“I Won’t Back Down” which appeared on 1989′s “Full Moon Fever” was inspired by defiant feelings toward his attacker: “I’ll stand my ground/And I won’t back down.”And that’s exactly what the singer-songwriter did, quickly rebuilding a new home on the exact same site two years later (but preserving the untouched basement studio), rebuilt with a little inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright. Curious fans got a peek inside the rebuilt home, via realty websites, when it went on the market in 2013 for $3.6 million. As for the person who set the near-fatal fire, no suspect was ever charged. The case remains unsolved.The 1987 album “Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough)” hit #20 and was certified gold, a relatively disappointing showing in view of the group’s 1980s success. Petty had fallen in with several of his rock star pals in the interim, turning friendship into business with the founding of the Traveling Wilburys. The band featured Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne, and their self-titled 1988 disc earned itself a hit with “Handle With Care.” When he began his first solo album with the Heartbreakers, he took Lynne with him as producer. The result was the masterful “Full Moon Fever.” Its “Free Fallin'”(#7, 1989) gave him a hit that revitalized fans’ appreciation of his skills.With most of the Heartbreakers playing on “Full Moon Fever,” Petty retained band loyalty, and it paid off on “Into the Great Wide Open,” a fine collection co-produced with Lynne.
In the interim Petty had participated a second Wilburys album (1990’s “Volume 3”), and his band had begun establishing themselves as sidemen, with Campbell working on Roy Orbison’s “Mystery Girl,” co-writing Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” and, with Lynch, contributing to Henley’s The End of the Innocence. Meanwhile, Tench worked with such acts as U2 and Elvis Costello, and Epstein produced his girlfriend Carlene Carter’s 1990 LP “I Fell in Love.”Petty’s record-business controversies continued with the surprise 1992 revelation that he had signed a secret $20 million, six-album deal with Warner Bros. in 1989. Reportedly he had kept the contract secret to avoid the ire of MCA, to which he owed two more albums at the time. In an unrelated dispute, in 1993 he was vindicated by the US Supreme Court when they let stand a lower court’s finding that Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream” did not infringe the copyright to an earlier piece written by songwriter/plaintiff Martin Allen Fine. A year after a #5 “Greatest Hits” album in 1993, drummer Stan Lynch, who had been working as a songwriter and/or producer with the re-formed Eagles, Leonard Cohen, Don Henley, and the Mavericks, departed the band. Petty returned in 1994 with a second solo album “Wildflowers,” which, again, featured most of the Heartbreakers. That year also saw the release of a Petty tribute album, “You Got Lucky.”In 1996 Petty and the Heartbreakers reunited and recorded songs for Ed Burns’ film “She’s the One” they also served as “backup band” on Johnny Cash’s “Unchained.”
That year, Petty and his wife ended their two-decade-long marriage, an event that purportedly added to the darker tone of 1999’s masterful “Echo” (#10). In 1997 Petty appeared in Kevin Costner’s film “The Postman”, but by 1999, the same year he and the Heartbreakers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, his emphasis was squarely on music. In typical Petty fashion, he offered Echo’s first single, “Free Girl Now,” as a no-cost MP3 (for two days, before his label requested that he remove it); similarly, the band also refused to increase ticket prices for the “Echo” tour.Petty was never afraid to speak his mind, especially where music and business were concerned. In 2002, he released “The Last DJ” (#9), in which he vented about the state of the music industry, most notably in the semi-controversial title track, which some stations refused to play. The album was one of the least successful of his career, failing to sell more than 500,000 copies. The next year, former Heartbreakers bassist Epstein died of a heroin overdose, and Petty would remain largely out of view until 2006, when he released the Lynne-produced “Highway Companion” (#4); the album opened with “Saving Grace” (#100), a back-to-basics number containing multiple uses of the word “baby,” a staple of all great Petty tracks. A 30th-anniversary tour with the Heartbreakers followed, as did a four-hour documentary from director Peter Bogdanovich, “Runnin’ Down A Dream.”In 2008, Petty and the Heartbreakers performed at the Super Bowl halftime show and announced another US tour. Petty also reformed Mudcrutch, playing bass as he originally did, for a brief tour and a self-titled debut album that proved their rangy country rock was in fine form.During his 35 years of action, Petty only released one live album, and as Rolling Stone reported, it wasn’t so hot. The singer rectified that in 2009 with “The Live Anthology,” a 48-track blast of rock ‘n’ roll that featured hits (“Breakdown,” “Freefallin'”) deep cuts (“Spike”) and speckling of cool covers (“Dave Clark 5’s “Anyway You Want It,” and an instrumental spin on the theme from “Goldfinger”). It received a four and a half star review from Rolling Stone.On April 13, 2012, five of Tom Petty’s guitars were stolen from a soundstage in Culver City, California where Petty & the Heartbreakers were rehearsing for their upcoming worldwide tour. The stolen gear included a 1967 Blonde Rickenbacker, a 1967 Epiphone Sheridan, a 1965 Gibson SG TV Jr., a Fender Broadcaster and a Dusenberg Mike Campbell Model, which belonged to Campbell himself. Petty offered a “no questions asked” reward bounty of $7,500 to anyone with information leading to the guitars’ recovery.
Five days later, Culver City police spokesman Ron Iizuke later confirmed that a suspect, a 51-year-old private security guard Daryl Washington was booked on suspicion of grand theft after detectives tracked him down when he sold one of the instruments to a Hollywood pawn shop. According to authorities, after getting tipped off about the pawn shop sale which led to the recovery of one guitar, investigators found the other four at Washington’s residence after obtaining a search warrant and arrested him.“I am extremely grateful to the Culver City Police Department for a job well done and touched by the outpouring of good wishes and concern from our fans and friends,” said Petty in a statement on his website.Petty’s star didn’t flicker as he aged; if anything, it grew brighter, as he admitted in 2014 that old age wasn’t going to slow him down. “I run a pretty fast-paced life and I always like having a project to do,” he said in 2014. “I hate to be bored. That is the greatest sin I can commit. I’m sure it irritates a lot of people around me but I like to keep moving.”Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers wrapped up a lengthy North American tour just before his death with the bandmates he heaped praise upon in a 2014 interview. “I don’t see that I have anything to offer as a solo artist that I couldn’t do within the group better,” he told the Sun. “We get along so well it’s embarrassing really. It’s a love fest!” Petty was also considering releasing a deluxe version of “Wildflowers,” his 1994 solo album, in 2018, and treating fans to an intimate, acoustic-focused tour.The band’s most recent effort, 2014’s “Hypnotic Eye,” scored the rockers their very first #1 album. On the night of October 1, 2017 Petty was found unconscious, not breathing, and in full cardiac arrest in his Malibu, California home. He had recently wrapped a lengthy North American tour, ending at the Hollywood Bowl on September 25th. He was subsequently taken to the UCLA Santa Monica Hospital, where he “had no brain activity” and was taken off life support at the request of his family.
He died the following day at 8:40 pm PT surrounded by family, his bandmates and friendsPetty‘s family and friends honored the late singer in a private memorial on Monday, October 16th in Pacific Palisades, California. The late singer’s then-35 year-old daughter AnnaKim Violette Petty shared photos on Instagram of the ceremony at Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine, a temple, shrine, and meditation garden where Beatles member George Harrison’s funeral was also held in 2001. According to the temple’s website, the grounds were closed to the public on Monday for the funeral.“The dark of the sun we will stand together,” AnnaKim captioned a photo of a black and white photo of her late father that was on display. In addition, she shared a picture of her and sister Adria Petty at the service, writing: “We care about each other and love our bad ass father.”AnnaKim also posted a photo of the Golden Lotus Archway, which frames the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial, an outdoor shrine where a 1,000-year-old Chinese stone sarcophagus holds a portion of the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi.The day following Petty’s death, his younger daughter shared a message of gratitude for the support she received after her father’s sudden death, writing on Instagram that “the amount of pain you feel will one day be the amount of joy you [experience]. I want to thank the hospital for [their] privacy, compassion, medical care,” she added. “Thank my family for only bringing love to the room. Friends for [their] around the clock emotional [support]. Fans for [their outpouring] of love and respect for my family’s space and privacy. My heart feels open and light years closer to my loved ones. The body dies but the [love] grows forever. Invite love.”AnnaKim shared a string of photos and messages about her late father, right before and after he died, giving fans a glimpse into their relationship. In one post, she recalled watching her dad perform just one week earlier.
“Everyone grew up on these songs,” she wrote. “This is real American art made from the roots of real people who deeply love life. My father loves music more than anything and always put music first. It’s going to be healing to know I will never go a day without hearing his music.”Petty’s sudden death elicited an outpouring of grief from fans and musicians. Ringo Starr and Stevie Nicks paid tribute to the musician, while Kesha, Jason Isbell, Dave Matthews and Wilco are among the numerous artists who have since covered Petty in concert.After months of speculation, a medical examiner ruled that Tom Petty died of an accidental overdose, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner. The Hall of Fame musician had taken several pain medications, including Fentanyl, oxycodone and generic Xanax. Other medications included generic Restoril (a sleep aid) and generic Celexa (which treats depression).The coroner’s office listed Petty’s official cause of death as “multisystem organ failure due to resuscitated cardiopulmonary arrest due to mixed drug toxicity,” noting the singer suffered from coronary artery atherosclerosis and emphysema.Petty had been prescribed the drugs to treat emphysema, knee issues and a fractured hip, his family said in a statement accompanying the results. Petty’s coronary artery disease had been a persistent problem throughout his final tour.“Despite this painful injury, he insisted on keeping his commitment to his fans and he toured for 53 dates with a fractured hip and, as he did, it worsened to a more serious injury,” Petty’s wife Dana and daughter Adria wrote in the statement. “On the day he died, he was informed his hip had graduated to a full-on break and it is our feeling that the pain was simply unbearable and was the cause for his overuse of medication.”Petty was found unconscious and not breathing at his Malibu home on October 2nd. He was rushed to a hospital where he was placed on life support.
Although he had a pulse, doctors found no brain activity when he arrived and the decision was made to pull life support. He died hours later.The singer had recently completed a 40th anniversary tour with his band, the Heartbreakers. It was intended to be his “last trip around the country,” though he told Rolling Stone he wasn’t going to stop playing. “I need something to do, or I tend to be a nuisance around the house,” he said.Petty said he’d experimented with cocaine over the years (“[It] was never a good look,” he told Men’s Journal) and drinking … I didn’t like the taste or the buzz.” But it was in the late Nineties, when he was in his late 40s and two decades after he’d become a superstar, that he developed an addiction to heroin after a bitter divorce from his first wife.“Using heroin went against my grain,” Petty said in author Warren Zanes’ book “Petty: The Biography”. “I didn’t want to be enslaved to anything. So I was always trying to figure out how to do less, and then that wouldn’t work. Tried to go cold turkey, and that wouldn’t work. It’s an ugly f***ing thing.” He sought out treatment for his addiction and remarried in 2001.Since his death, several artists have paid tribute to Petty onstage. Country artist Jason Aldean dedicated some of his time as the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” to sing “I Won’t Back Down.” Bob Dylan performed Petty’s “Learning to Fly” at a concert in Broomfield, Colorado. And Dave Matthews, Emmylou Harris and others sang “Refugee” at a benefit show in Seattle. Petty’s “Greatest Hits” album subsequently made it to the #2 spot on the Billboard chart after his death.Petty’s family said they hoped the musician’s death leads to a broader understanding of the opioid crisis. “As a family, we recognize this report may spark a further discussion on the opioid crisis and we feel that it is a healthy and necessary discussion and we hope in some way this report can save lives,” they wrote. “Many people who overdose begin with a legitimate injury or simply do not understand the potency and deadly nature of these medications.”FULL STATEMENT FROM DANA AND ADRIA PETTY:“Our family sat together this morning with the medical examiner – coroner’s office and we were informed of their final analysis that Tom Petty passed away due to an accidental drug overdose as a result of taking a variety of medications.Unfortunately Tom’s body suffered from many serious ailments including emphysema, knee problems and most significantly a fractured hip.
Despite this painful injury he insisted on keeping his commitment to his fans and he toured for 53 dates with a fractured hip and, as he did, it worsened to a more serious injury.On the day he died he was informed his hip had graduated to a full on break and it is our feeling that the pain was simply unbearable and was the cause for his over use of medication.We knew before the report was shared with us that he was prescribed various pain medications for a multitude of issues including fentanyl patches and we feel confident that this was, as the coroner found, an unfortunate accident.As a family we recognize this report may spark a further discussion on the opioid crisis and we feel that it is a healthy and necessary discussion and we hope in some way this report can save lives. Many people who overdose begin with a legitimate injury or simply do not understand the potency and deadly nature of these medications.On a positive note we now know for certain he went painlessly and beautifully exhausted after doing what he loved the most, for one last time, performing live with his unmatchable rock band for his loyal fans on the biggest tour of his 40 plus year career. He was extremely proud of that achievement in the days before he passed.We continue to mourn with you and marvel at Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers incredible positive impact on music and the world. And we thank you all for your love and support over the last months.Thank you also for respecting the memory of a man who was truly great during his time on this planet both publicly and privately.We would be grateful if you could respect the privacy of the entire Heartbreaker family during this difficult time.