Fellow musicians took to Twitter Monday in an outpouring of support for Tom Petty, the unpretentious, hard-working Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter who was near death following an apparent heart attack.
Paul McCartney tweeted his well-wishes, saying “Sending love to Tom Petty and his family at this difficult time.” Music star Sheryl Crow tweeted to Petty that, “I love you so much. You are in my prayers.” Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx called Petty among the “greatest songwriters of our generation. Thank you for ALL the music. Prayers to your family & band members.”
In a tweet referring to both Petty and the Las Vegas tragedy, horror author Stephen King wrote, “What a bad day this has been, in so many ways.” Guitarist-singer John Mayer tweeted, “I loved Tom Petty and I covered his songs because I wanted know what it felt like to fly.”
Petty was found unconscious and non-responsive in his Malibu home late Sunday after suffering a full cardiac arrest, according various news reports. TMZ reported that Petty’s wife, Dana, made a desperate 911 call, telling a dispatcher that she needed help because her husband wasn’t breathing. The dispatcher remained on the line, trying to get the woman to administer CPR.
According to multiple media reports, the 67-year-old rocker was taken to UCLA Medical Center Santa Monica, where he was put on life support and his pulse returned. Later the decision was made to remove him from life support after it was found that he was lacking brain activity, the website TMZ reported.
CBS reported Monday morning that Petty had died, citing the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD later retracted that information, conceding that the agency had “inadvertently” given information to “some media sources” about the singer’s death.
“However, the LAPD has no investigative role in this matter,” according to the LAPD. “We apologize for any inconvenience in this reporting.”
Petty’s label, Warner Bros. Records in Burbank, and New York-based publicist did not return calls and emails requesting comment.
Petty is a hard-working, likeable and unpretentious musician whose backing band the Heartbreakers is considered among the most dependable classic rock groups of the last quarter century. Like fellow artists Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Petty and the Heartbreakers was always considered a “people’s band,” whose concise, tuneful songs spoke of everyday struggles.
His last stage appearance took place Sept. 25 at the Hollywood Bowl, the last of three sold-out shows there marking the finale of the band’s extensive North American tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of their self-titled debut album. On Sept. 17, Petty and the Heartbreakers headlined the third night of Kaaboo Del Mar in San Diego.
Petty once said, “I’d like to see us break some new ground and leave some sort of mark on the music. That would be the nicest thing — to give something back, as noble as it sounds. If you could make some little dent in rock, where that little area is yours — that’s what I’m striving for now.”
Petty and his longtime band mates first came together in the early 1970s in their hometown of Gainesville, Florida. Their self-titled debut album appeared in 1976, and the band scored hits over several decades, including “American Girl,” “Free Fallin’,” “Breakdown,” “Refugee,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “I Won’t Back Down.” He was also a member of the collective the Traveling Wilburys in the late 1980s alongside Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne.
Known for a slurred, relaxed vocal delivery, a scarecrow pose and swaying dirty-blond hair, Petty’s no-frills sound was inspired by The Beatles, the Byrds and Dylan. Born and raised in northern Florida, he began playing music while still in high school and at 17, he formed Mudcrutch, which included future Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench.
By 1970, Mudcrutch had moved to Los Angeles with hopes of landing a record contract. Over 40 years, Petty and the Heartbreakers remained true to their classic-rock roots as decades of fleeting musical fads and styles faded away.
Among the career highlights was a collaboration with Stevie Nicks that resulted in the hit single/duet “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”; his work in a popular “Alice in Wonderland”-themed video for “Don’t Come Around Here No More”; and a well-received 1986 tour with Dylan. In 2002, Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2007, the group was the subject of Peter Bogdanovich’s four-hour documentary, Runnin’ Down a Dream.”
In 2014, Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 13th album, “Hypnotic Eye” was their first to ever reach No. 1 on the charts. He also curates “Tom Petty Radio,” a station on SiriusXM satellite radio where he hosts his own “Buried Treasure” show.
“Tom Petty was one of the biggest inspirations for me as a musician,” tweeted Kings of Leon’s Nathan Followill. “This one will hurt for a long time. Truly one of the sweetest people on earth. Rest in Peace brother.”
“No words. Just thanks,” wrote filmmaker Cameron Crowe, who once directed a video for Petty and used his music in films.
In a 2015 biography, for which Petty collaborated with author and friend Warren Zanes, the rocker revealed a bout with heroin addiction in the 1990s and told of a May 1987 arson fire that destroyed his former home in Encino.
According to several biographical sources, Petty married his second wife, Dana, in 2001. He reportedly has two daughters from a previous marriage and a stepson with his current spouse.
Tweeted the E Street Band’s Steven Van Zandt: “Man this cannot be happening. Not Tom Petty please. Our deepest love and condolences to his family and band. A brother and true believer.”
–City News Service