has died at the age of 66.
According to longtime manager Tony Dimitriades, Petty passed away at 8:40 p.m. PST Monday at UCLA Medical Center after suffering cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu on Sunday night.
In a statement, Dimitriades wrote, “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.”
Preemptive reports earlier Monday about Petty’s death caused confusion after the Los Angeles Police Department erroneously confirmed it to CBS. The department quickly apologized, saying that “initial information was inadvertantly [sic] provided to some media sources.”
Petty and the Heartbreakers had just finished their 40th Anniversary Tour last Monday at the Hollywood Bowl. Later, Petty told Rolling Stone that the tour would probably be his “last big one.” “We’re all on the backside of our sixties,” he told the magazine. “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.”
Petty wrote a good portion of the soundtrack to American life—at least, a life lived on FM radio—during his four-decade career, recording some of the seminal rock songs of the era: “American Girl,” “Refugee,” “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” “Free Fallin,” and dozens more. His effortless way with a melody and his unwaveringly authentic persona endeared him to fans across the dial, from classic rock to post-punk to new wave. Petty never scored a Top 5 single, yet his collected greatest hits are nearly without peer in rock history. Fittingly, his brilliantly slinky 1977 debut single “Breakdown” failed to chart but would become a radio staple nonetheless.
Petty was born in Gainesville, Fla., on Oct. 20, 1950. After rising through the local ranks in the bands The Epics and Mudcrutch, he went solo with his group the Heartbereakers and immediately recorded a number of songs that would prove timeless, particularly “American Girl,” his third single. He finally cracked the charts with his third album, 1979’s Damn the Torpedos, when “Refugee” entered the Top 20 in early 1980. He scored another Top 20 hit with “The Waiting,” from 1981’s “Hard Promises,” and another with “You Got Lucky,” from 1982’s Long After Dark.
Petty was among the rock artists who embraced MTV in the ‘80s, keeping himself in front of younger eyes with unforgettable videos such as 1985’s nightmarish “Alice in Wonderland” spoof for “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” Three subsequent records billed as simply Tom Petty (no Heartbreakers), 1989’s Full Moon Fever, 1994’s Wildflowers and 2004’s Highway Companion, peaked in the Top 10 on the US Album Charts behind radio staples like “I Won’t Back Down” and “Free Fallin.’”
You can read Paste’s list of Tom Petty’s 15 Best Songs here.
In all, Petty released 13 albums with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and three solo records, as well as two albums with The Traveling Wilburys, a supergroup that included Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne.