In what had been a total botch up of rumours and false statements, it has finally been confirmed that Tom Petty passed away at the age of 66, Monday night at UCLA Medical Center after going into cardiac arrest early Monday morning at his Malibu residence.
With all the craziness going on in Las Vegas Sunday night, it had been erroneously reported by the LAPD CBS News and Rolling Stone Magazine that Petty had died early Monday when in fact he was still on a life support system, triggering a number of premature messages of condolence from a number of key celebrities.
However, Petty couldn’t maintain his fight and died at 8:40 PT Monday night surrounded by family, band mates and friends.
In a statement issued by long-time manager Tony Dimitriades; “On behalf of the Tom Petty family, we are devastated to announce the untimely death of our father, husband, band leader and friend, Tom Petty. He suffered a cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu in the early hours of this morning and was taken to UCLA Medical Centre but could not be revived”.
Petty had just completed a 53-show 40th Anniversary Tour with three nights (Sept 21.22 & 25th) at the Hollywood Bowl and had announced that he was cutting back on future major touring activities. The Gainesville Florida native will be remembered for his work with his long term band The Heartbreakers with which he recorded 13 studio albums, (Inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame in 2002) but also for three successful solo albums, two records with super group The Traveling Wilburys (which also featured George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne) and also two records by his original band Mudcrutch, the last one being a 2016 release simply called 2
Debuting in 1976 with his self titled Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, Petty made his big break through with his Damn The Torpedoes release in 1979 which featured such hits as “Refugee”,” Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Here Comes My Girl”.
Although overshadowed somewhat by Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty played a major role in the weaving of America’s musical tapestry and he was possibly at his creative peak in 1989 when this writer had the pleasure of interviewing him in Los Angeles for Music Express.
At that point in time, Music Express was the in-store music magazine for the U.S-based Musicland/Sam Goody chain which boasted over 1,100 retail outlets across the United States. We had reached a publishing peak of 1.3 million copies so getting the cover was a big deal for any major artist.
Mitch Schneider, who ran one of the largest music public relations companies at the time (Heart, Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, The Scorpions) suggested the release of Petty’s first solo album, `Full Moon Fever’ would make an ideal cover story, I agreed and found myself in Schneider’s office, one floor above the trendy Le Dome restaurant on L.A’s Sunset Strip, chatting with Mr Petty.
With his engaging Southern drawl, Petty proved to be an engaging interview. He talked about meeting Elvis Presley when he was 10 years old on the set of a Presley movie, “Follow That Dream”. How the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show convinced Petty that playing in a band could be the way to go, how his guitar-playing prowess was tutored by future Eagles’ guitarist Don Felder and how his first band Mudcrutch (featuring future Heartbreaker Mike Campbell) set the stage for future success with the Heartbreakers.
Petty had some great anecdotes about how a recording session between Harrison and Lynne ended up with himself, Orbison and Dylan joining forces on a track “Handle With Care” that was initially targeted as a B-side on a Harrison single but instead blossomed into a major hit for the tongue-in-cheek super group.
Full Moon Fever featured an all-star lineup including Harrison, Lynne, and Heartbreakers Campbell and Benmont Tench and scored major airplay with “Runnin Down A Dream”, “Free Fallin” and “I Won’t Back Down”, a record which showed Petty was a song writing machine whether he was recording solo or with his Heartbreakers.
More recently, Petty joined forces with Sirius/XM to feature on his own radio channel and as previously noted, had just completed a highly successful 40th anniversary tour when he suffered a cardiac arrest.
Another great talent gone way to soon.