Tom Petty dead at 66

Gary Miller/Getty ImagesTom Petty, who with his band The Heartbreakers and as solo artist became one of the most acclaimed and beloved rock artists of the past 40 years, has died at age 66.

“On behalf of the Tom Petty family we are devastated to announce the untimely death of of our father, husband, brother, leader and friend Tom Petty,” said Tony Dimitriades, longtime manager of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, in a 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 8:40 p.m. PT surrounded by family, his band mates and friends.”

Petty was born in Gainesville, Florida, and as a teenager he dropped out of high school to focus on playing music. With his early band Mudcrutch, which featured future Heartbreakers members guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench, he relocated to Los Angeles in 1975.

After that band broke up, Petty, Campbell, Tench, bassist Ron Blair and drummer Stan Lynch formed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 1975, and the group released their eponymous album the next year. They went on to put out 15 additional studio albums over the years that yielded such enduring hits as “I Need to Know,” “Listen to Her Heart,” “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Refugee,” “Here Comes My Girl,” “The Waiting,” “You Got Lucky,” and “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”

Tom also mounted a successful solo career, highlighted in 1989 by the release of Full Moon Fever, which has sold five million copies in the U.S. and featured the hits “Free Fallin’,” “I Won’t Back Down” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” In addition, Petty was a member of the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys, alongside George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne.

Petty and the Heartbreakers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1999 and, in 2002 they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Earlier this year, Petty was honored with an all-star tribute as the 2017 MusiCares Person of the Year.

Petty and the Heartbreakers most recently had mounted a lengthy 40th anniversary tour that wrapped up on September 25 in L.A. On September 29, he posted a message thanking his fans for supporting The Heartbreakers for 40 years. His songs, he told ABC News, meant the world to him.

“They’re magic, you know,” he said. “Songs are gifts from God.”

Petty is survived by his wife of 16 years, Dana York Epperson, and two daughters from a previous marriage, Adria and AnnaKim Violette.

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