Legendary singer/songwriter Tom Petty died Monday after being rushed to a Los Angeles hospital, according to Tony Dimitriades, longtime manager of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Dimitriades confirmed Petty’s death late Monday night. Petty was 66.
“We are devastated to announce the untimely death of our father, husband, brother, leader and friend Tom Petty,” Dimitriades said 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 bandmates and friends.”
Petty and the Heartbreakers had performed to more than 14,500 fans in Des Moines at Wells Fargo Arena on June 5 as part of their 40th anniversary tour. The 19-song, two-hour set was a celebration of four decades of Petty’s unique brand of musical genius that included classics such as “Refugee” and “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” and “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” Incredibly, despite a long career of creating some of the most instantly-recognizable music of the 1970s and 1980s, Petty scored just two Top-10 hits.
But his longevity and accompanying esteem in which his fans held Petty could be traced to his determination to create straight-ahead, no frills music, an approach which set him as the default torch-bearer of heartland rock ‘n roll through decades of ebbs and flows of music industry trends.
“Picture 40 years as one big album,” Petty said, “we’re just going to drop the needle all over it tonight,” The Des Moines Register’s Matthew Leimkuehler wrote of the Des Moines performance.
And that was vintage Petty, who also found success outside of his solo act when he co-founded the The Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne in the 1980s.
Petty, who grew up in Gainesville, Florida, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, and sold more than 80 million records in his storied career.
Dylan called Petty’s death “shocking, crushing news” in a statement to Rolling Stone magazine, adding that he was “a great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him.”
Ex-Beatle Ringo Starr wrote on Twitter: “God bless Tom Petty peace and love to his family. I‘m sure going to miss you Tom.”