Tom Petty, the brilliant singer/songwriter and frontman of the wildly popular Heartbreakers, has died.
A native of Gainesville, Florida, Petty and the Heartbreakers first came to national prominence in 1977, via their self-titled debut album and first hit single “Breakdown.” The followed it with a string of hits in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, including “I Need to Know,” “Refugee,” “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “American Girl,” and “The Waiting.”
Petty later joined the super-group Traveling Wilburys, alongside Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne; the group released two albums, in 1988 and 1990. Between them, Lynne produced Petty’s solo album Full Moon Fever, which yielded two of his biggest hits, “Free Fallin’,” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream.”
Petty, with and without the Heartbreakers, continued to record new music and perform his hits; he also reunited with his pre-Heartbreakers group Mudcrutch for two albums. He toured with the Hearbreakers this spring and summer, and the group was scheduled to perform in New York City next month.
TMZ first reported that Petty had been found unconscious in his home Sunday night, in full cardiac arrest, and that he never regained consciousness. CBS confirmed their report that Petty was taken off life support today. He was 66.
UPDATE 5:15pm: TMZ is now reporting that Petty is still “clinging to life” after the removal of life-support systems, and the LAPD has tweeted what amounts to a disavowal of their confirmation to CBS. TMZ notes that the singer “is not expected to live through the day.”
UPDATE 12:43am: Heartbreakers manager Tony Dimitriades has released a statement: Tom Petty died at 8:40pm PT, “surrounded by family, his bandmates, and friends.”