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Tom Petty, Rock And Roll Hero, Dies At 66
Rock icon Tom Petty has died. The three-time GRAMMY winner and 2017 MusiCares Person of the Year was rushed to the hospital after suffering full cardiac arrest at his Malibu, Calif., home on Oct. 1 and taken off life support the following day. Petty's passing was confirmed by Tony Dimitriades, his longtime manager. He was 66 years old.
Born in Gainesville, Fla., in 1950, Petty idolized the Beatles and Elvis Presley as a young boy. In the early 1970s, Petty met his lifetime collaborators Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench and formed the blues-rock group Mudcrutch. When Mudcruch disbanded, Petty struck out on his own as a solo artist, but enlisted Campbell and Tench to play key roles in his backup band, the Heartbreakers.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers broke onto the scene with their self-titled debut album later that year, which contained the ubiquitous hits "Breakdown" and "American Girl." With the Heartbreakers, Petty scored hit after hit through the 1970s and '80s, including "Listen To Her Heart," "The Waiting," "Refugee," and Petty's famous duet with Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around."
In the late 1980s, Petty joined forces with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne to form the ultimate super group, the Traveling Wilburys. The group won a GRAMMY for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal for 1989 for Traveling Wilburys Volume One, Petty's first GRAMMY Award.
An 18-time nominee, Petty went on to win two more GRAMMYs, one for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for 1995 for "You Don't Know How It Feels" and another for Best Long Form Music Video for 2008 for the documentary Runnin' Down A Dream.
A Songwriters Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Petty has charted albums in the Top 5 on the Billboard 200 in each of his five decades as a recording artist. His most recent recording with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, 2014's Hypnotic Eye, entered at No. 1, his first career chart-topping album.
Earlier this year, Petty was honored as MusiCares Person of the Year in recognition of his significant creative accomplishments, his career-long interest in defending artists' rights and the charitable work he has undertaken throughout his career, which has notably focused on the homeless population in Los Angeles. The event raised a record $8.5 millon for MusiCares' programs and services.
The sad news of Petty's death comes only days after Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers wrapped their successful 40th-anniversary tour with shows at venues such as the iconic Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. The extensive tour took Petty and his band across the U.S. for what he told Rolling Stone earlier this year would likely be his last big tour.
Throughout his long career, Petty exhilarated and inspired a generation of fans and artists alike. Petty's unique voice, rebellious spirit and warm heart made him a true rock and roll hero whose influence on the music world as a songwriter, performer and philanthropist cannot be underestimated. He will be greatly missed.
"It's shocking, crushing news," Dylan told Rolling Stone in a statement. "I thought the world of Tom. He was great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I'll never forget him."
"Tom was a true rock and roll purist, both in his music and his defiant spirit," said Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow. "With the Heartbreakers, his infectious riffs, rebellious personality, and inventive songwriting brought a new urgency to rock traditions and fueled a now legendary career and some of the most memorable music of the last four decades. In retrospect, we were so fortunate and privileged to pay tribute to Tom as the Recording Academy’s 2017 MusiCares Person of the Year, and honor his significant creative achievements, philanthropic efforts, and passion for defending musicians’ rights. Tom will be remembered as much for his humanity as his music."