Tom Petty

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Tom Petty
Tom Petty Live in Horsens (cropped2).jpg
Petty performing in June 2012
Thomas Earl Petty

(1950-10-20)October 20, 1950
DiedOctober 2, 2017(2017-10-02) (aged 66)
Cause of death Accidental drug overdose
Other names
  • Charlie T. Wilbury Jr.
  • Muddy Wilbury
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • multi-instrumentalist
  • record producer
  • actor
Years active1968–2017
Jane Benyo
(m. 1974;div. 1996)

Dana York(m. 2001)
Musical career
Genres Rock
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Associated acts

Thomas Earl Petty (October 20, 1950 – October 2, 2017) was an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and actor. He was the lead singer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, formed in 1976. He previously led the band Mudcrutch. He was also a member of the late 1980s supergroup the Traveling Wilburys.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers American rock band

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were an American rock band from Gainesville, Florida. Formed in 1976, the band originally comprised Tom Petty, Mike Campbell, Ron Blair, Stan Lynch (drums), and Benmont Tench (keyboards). In 1981, Blair, weary of the touring lifestyle, departed the band. His replacement, Howie Epstein, stayed with the band for the next two decades. In 1991, Scott Thurston joined the band as a multi-instrumentalist—mostly on rhythm guitar and second keyboards. Blair returned to the Heartbreakers in 2002, the year before Epstein's death. In 1994, Steve Ferrone replaced Lynch on drums. The band is best known for the hit singles "American Girl", "Breakdown", "The Waiting", "Learning to Fly", "Refugee" and "Mary Jane's Last Dance".

Mudcrutch American rock band

Mudcrutch was an American southern and country rock band from Gainesville, Florida. They are best known for being the band that began Tom Petty's rise to fame.

A supergroup is a musical performing group whose members have successful solo careers, are members of other groups, or are well known in other musical professions. The term is usually used in the context of rock and pop music, but it has occasionally been applied to other musical genres. For example, The Three Tenors—composed of opera superstars José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti—or Rainbow have been called a supergroup.


Petty recorded a number of hit singles with the Heartbreakers and as a solo artist. In his career, he sold more than 80 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. [1] He and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. Petty died at the age of 66, of an accidental overuse of prescription drugs, one week after the completion of the Heartbreakers' 40th anniversary tour. [2]

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Hall of fame located on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, United States

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, located in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, on the shore of Lake Erie, recognizes and archives the history of the best-known and most influential artists, producers, engineers, and other notable figures who have had some major influence on the development of rock and roll. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was established on April 20, 1983, by Ahmet Ertegun, founder and chairman of Atlantic Records. In 1986, Cleveland was chosen as the Hall of Fame's permanent home.

Early life

Petty was born October 20, 1950, in Gainesville, Florida, the first of two sons of Kitty (Katherine) Petty, a local tax office worker, and Earl Petty, who worked in a grocery store. [3] [4] [5] He had a brother, Bruce, who was seven years younger. [3] His interest in rock and roll music began at age ten when he met Elvis Presley. [6] In the summer of 1961, his uncle was working on the set of Presley's film Follow That Dream , in nearby Ocala, and invited Petty to watch the shoot. [7] He instantly became a Presley fan, and when he returned that Saturday, he was greeted by his friend Keith Harben, and soon traded his Wham-O slingshot for a collection of Elvis 45s. [8] Of that meeting with Presley, Petty said, "Elvis glowed." [9] In a 2006 interview, Petty said he knew he wanted to be in a band the moment he saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show . [10] "The minute I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show—and it's true of thousands of guys—there was the way out. There was the way to do it. You get your friends and you're a self-contained unit. And you make the music. And it looked like so much fun. It was something I identified with. I had never been hugely into sports. ... I had been a big fan of Elvis. But I really saw in the Beatles that here's something I could do. I knew I could do it. It wasn't long before there were groups springing up in garages all over the place." [11] He dropped out of high school at age 17 to play bass with his newly formed band. [4]

Gainesville, Florida City in Florida, United States

Gainesville is the county seat and largest city in Alachua County, Florida, United States, and the principal city of the Gainesville, Florida, metropolitan statistical area. The US Census Bureau estimated Gainesville's population at 133,857 in 2018, a 7.4% increase from 2010. Gainesville is the largest city in the North Central Florida region. The Gainesville metropolitan statistical area had an estimated population of 288,212 in 2018.

Rock and roll is a genre of popular music that originated and evolved in the United States in African-American communities during the late 1940s and early 1950s from musical styles such as gospel, jump blues, jazz, boogie woogie, and rhythm and blues, along with country music. While elements of what was to become rock and roll can be heard in blues records from the 1920s and in country records of the 1930s, the genre did not acquire its name until 1954.

Elvis Presley American singer and actor

Elvis Aaron Presley, also known mononymously as Elvis, was an American singer, musician, and actor. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".

In an interview with the CBC in 2014, Petty stated that the Rolling Stones were "my punk music". [12] He credited the group with inspiring him by demonstrating that he and musicians like him could make it in rock and roll. [12]

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, branded as CBC/Radio-Canada, is a Canadian federal Crown corporation that serves as the national public broadcaster for both radio and television. The English- and French-language service units of the corporation are commonly known as CBC and Radio-Canada.

The Rolling Stones English rock band

The Rolling Stones are an English rock band formed in London in 1962. The first stable line-up consisted of bandleader Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman (bass), Charlie Watts (drums), and Ian Stewart (piano). Stewart was removed from the official line-up in 1963 but continued to work with the band as a contracted musician until his death in 1985. The band's primary songwriters, Jagger and Richards, assumed leadership after Andrew Loog Oldham became the group's manager. Jones left the band less than a month before his death in 1969, having already been replaced by Mick Taylor, who remained until 1974. After Taylor left the band, Ronnie Wood took his place in 1975 and continues on guitar in tandem with Richards. Since Wyman's departure in 1993, Darryl Jones has served as touring bassist. The Stones have not had an official keyboardist since 1963, but have employed several musicians in that role, including Jack Nitzsche (1965–1971), Nicky Hopkins (1967–1982), Billy Preston (1971–1981), Ian McLagan (1978–1981), and Chuck Leavell (1982–present).

One of his first guitar teachers was Don Felder, a fellow Gainesville resident, who later joined the Eagles. [13] [14] As a young man, Petty worked briefly on the grounds crew of the University of Florida, but never attended as a student. An Ogeechee lime tree that he allegedly planted while employed at the university is now called the Tom Petty tree (Petty stated that he did not recall planting any trees). [15] [16] [17] He also worked briefly as a gravedigger. [17]

Don Felder American musician

Donald William Felder is an American musician and songwriter, best known for his work as a lead guitarist of the Eagles from 1974 until 2001.

Eagles (band) American country rock band

The Eagles are an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1971. The founding members were Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner. With five number-one singles, six number-one albums, six Grammy Awards, and five American Music Awards, the Eagles were one of the most successful musical acts of the 1970s. Their albums Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) and Hotel California rank first and third, respectively, among the best-selling albums in the United States, with 38 million and 26 million album units in sales. The Eagles are one of the world's best-selling bands, having sold more than 100 million albums. They were ranked number 75 on Rolling Stone's 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

University of Florida Public research university in Gainesville, Florida, United States

The University of Florida is an American public land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant research university in Gainesville, Florida, United States. It is a senior member of the State University System of Florida. The university traces its origins to 1853 and has operated continuously on its Gainesville campus since September 1906.

Petty also overcame a difficult relationship with his father, who found it hard to accept that his son was "a mild-mannered kid who was interested in the arts" and subjected him to verbal and physical abuse on a regular basis. Petty was close to his mother and remained close to his brother, Bruce. [18] [19] [20]


1976–1987: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Shortly after embracing his musical aspirations, Petty started a band known as the Epics, later to evolve into Mudcrutch. The band included future Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench and was popular in Gainesville, but their recordings went unnoticed by a mainstream audience. Their only single, "Depot Street", released in 1975 by Shelter Records, failed to chart. [21]

After Mudcrutch split up, Petty reluctantly agreed to pursue a solo career. Tench decided to form his own group, whose sound Petty appreciated. Eventually, Petty and Campbell collaborated with Tench, Ron Blair and Stan Lynch, forming the first lineup of the Heartbreakers. Their eponymous debut album gained minute popularity amongst American audiences, achieving greater success in Britain. The single "Breakdown" was re-released in 1977, and peaked at No.40 in early 1978 after the band toured in the United Kingdom in support of Nils Lofgren. The debut album was released by Shelter Records, which at that time was distributed by ABC Records. [22]

Petty (center) with the Heartbreakers in 1977 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 1977.jpg
Petty (center) with the Heartbreakers in 1977

Their second album, You're Gonna Get It! , was the band's first Top 40 album, [22] featuring the singles "I Need to Know" and "Listen to Her Heart". Their third album, Damn the Torpedoes , quickly went platinum, selling nearly two million copies; it includes their breakthrough singles "Don't Do Me Like That", "Here Comes My Girl" and "Refugee". [23]

In September 1979, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed at a Musicians United for Safe Energy concert at Madison Square Garden in New York. [24] Their rendition of "Cry to Me" was featured on the resulting album, No Nukes . [25]

The 4th album Hard Promises , released in 1981, became a top-ten hit, going platinum and spawning the hit single "The Waiting". The album also featured Petty's first duet, "Insider" with Stevie Nicks. [26]

Bass player Ron Blair quit the group and was replaced on the fifth album, Long After Dark (1982), by Howie Epstein; the resulting lineup lasted until 1994. In 1985, the band participated in Live Aid, playing four songs at John F. Kennedy Stadium, in Philadelphia. Southern Accents was also released in 1985. This album included the hit single "Don't Come Around Here No More", which was produced by Dave Stewart. The song's video featured Petty dressed as the Mad Hatter, mocking and chasing Alice from the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland , then cutting and eating her as if she were a cake. The ensuing tour led to the live album Pack Up the Plantation: Live! and an invitation from Bob Dylan—Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers joined him on his True Confessions Tour. They also played some dates with the Grateful Dead in 1986 and 1987. Also in 1987, the group released Let Me Up (I've Had Enough) which includes "Jammin' Me" which Petty wrote with Dylan. [27]

1988–1991: Traveling Wilburys and solo career

In 1988, Petty joined George Harrison's group, the Traveling Wilburys, which also included Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne. The band's first song, "Handle with Care", was intended as a B-side of one of Harrison's singles, but was judged too good for that purpose and the group decided to record a full album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 . A second Wilburys album, mischievously titled Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 and recorded without the recently deceased Orbison, followed in 1990. The album was named Vol. 3 as a response to a series of bootlegged studio sessions being sold as Travelling Wilburys Vol. 2. Petty incorporated Traveling Wilburys songs into his live shows, consistently playing "Handle with Care" in shows from 2003 to 2006, and for his 2008 tour adding "surprises" such as "End of the Line" to the set list. [28]

In 1989, Petty released Full Moon Fever , which featured hits "I Won't Back Down", "Free Fallin'" and "Runnin' Down a Dream". It was nominally his first solo album, although several Heartbreakers and other well-known musicians participated: Mike Campbell co-produced the album with Petty and Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, and backing musicians included Campbell, Lynne, and fellow Wilburys Roy Orbison and George Harrison (Ringo Starr appears on drums in the video for "I Won't Back Down", but they were actually performed by Phil Jones). [29]

Petty and the Heartbreakers reformed in 1991 and released Into the Great Wide Open , which was co-produced by Lynne and included the hit singles "Learning To Fly" and "Into the Great Wide Open", the latter featuring Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway in the music video. [30]

Before leaving MCA Records, Petty and the Heartbreakers got together to record, live in the studio, two new songs for a Greatest Hits package: "Mary Jane's Last Dance" and Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air". This was Stan Lynch's last recorded performance with the Heartbreakers. Petty commented "He left right after the session without really saying goodbye." The package went on to sell over ten million copies, therefore receiving diamond certification by the RIAA. [31]

1991–2017: Move to Warner Bros. Records

In 1989, while still under contract to MCA, Petty secretly signed a lucrative deal with Warner Bros. Records, to which the Traveling Wilburys had been signed. [32] His first album on his new label, 1994's Wildflowers (Petty's second of three solo albums), included the singles "You Don't Know How It Feels", "You Wreck Me", "It's Good to Be King", and "A Higher Place". The album, produced by Rick Rubin, sold over three million copies in the United States. [31]

In 1996, Petty, with the Heartbreakers, released a soundtrack to the movie She's the One , starring Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston (see Songs and Music from "She's the One" ). The album's singles were "Walls (Circus)" (featuring Lindsey Buckingham), "Climb that Hill", and a song written by Lucinda Williams, "Change the Locks". The album also included a cover of "Asshole", a song by Beck. The same year, the band accompanied Johnny Cash on Unchained (provisionally entitled "Petty Cash"), for which Cash would win a Grammy for Best Country Album (Cash would later cover Petty's "I Won't Back Down" on American III: Solitary Man ). [33]

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performing live at the Verizon Amphitheatre, Indianapolis, 2006 Tompetty indy.jpg
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performing live at the Verizon Amphitheatre, Indianapolis, 2006

In 1999, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released their last album with Rubin at the helm, Echo . Two songs were released as singles in the U.S., "Room at the Top" and "Free Girl Now". The album reached number 10 in the U.S. album charts. [34]

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played "I Won't Back Down" at the America: A Tribute to Heroes benefit concert for victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The following year, they played "Taxman", "I Need You" and "Handle with Care" (joined for the last by Jeff Lynne, Dhani Harrison, and Jim Keltner) at the Concert for George in honor of Petty's friend and former bandmate George Harrison. [35]

Petty's 2002 release, The Last DJ , was an album-length critique of the practices within the music industry. [36] The title track, inspired by Los Angeles radio personality Jim Ladd, bemoaned the end of the freedom that radio DJs once had to personally select songs for their station's playlists. [36] [37] The album peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200 album chart in the United States. [34]

In 2005, Petty began hosting his own show "Buried Treasure" on XM Satellite Radio, on which he shared selections from his personal record collection. [38]

Petty performing at the Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, Virginia, 2006 Tom Petty.jpg
Petty performing at the Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, Virginia, 2006

In 2006, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers headlined the fifth annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival as part of their "30th Anniversary Tour". Special guests included Stevie Nicks, Pearl Jam, the Allman Brothers Band, Trey Anastasio, the Derek Trucks Band, and the Black Crowes. Nicks joined Petty and the Heartbreakers on stage for "a selection of songs" including "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around". [39] [40]

In July 2006, Petty released a solo album titled Highway Companion , which included the hit "Saving Grace". It debuted at number four on the Billboard 200, which was Petty's highest chart position since the introduction of the Nielsen SoundScan system for tracking album sales in 1991. Highway Companion was briefly promoted on the tour with the Heartbreakers in 2006, with performances of "Saving Grace", "Square One", "Down South" and "Flirting with Time". [41]

During the summer of 2007, Petty reunited with his old bandmates Tom Leadon and Randall Marsh along with Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell to reform his pre-Heartbreakers band Mudcrutch. The band originally formed in 1970 in Gainesville, Florida, before relocating to California where they released one single in 1975 before breaking up. The quintet recorded an album of 14 songs that was released on April 29, 2008 (on iTunes, an additional song "Special Place" was available if the album was pre-ordered). The band supported the album with a brief tour of California in the spring of 2008. [42]

Petty performing in San Francisco in 2016 Tom Petty 2016 - Jun 20.jpg
Petty performing in San Francisco in 2016

In 2007, Petty and the Heartbreakers’ contributed a cover of "I'm Walkin'" to the album Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino . The album's sales helped buy instruments for students in New Orleans public schools and they contributed to the building of a community center in the city's Hurricane Katrina-damaged Ninth Ward. [43]

On February 3, 2008, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed during the halftime-show of Super Bowl XLII at the University of Phoenix Stadium. They played "American Girl", "I Won't Back Down", "Free Fallin'" and "Runnin' Down a Dream". [44] That summer, the band toured North America with Steve Winwood as the opening act. Winwood joined Petty and the Heartbreakers on stage at select shows and performed his Spencer Davis Group hit "Gimme Some Lovin'", and occasionally he performed his Blind Faith hit "Can't Find My Way Home". In November 2009 the boxed set The Live Anthology , a compilation of live recordings from 1978 to 2006, was released.

The band's twelfth album Mojo was released on June 15, 2010, and reached number two on the Billboard 200 album chart. [34] Petty described the album as "Blues-based. Some of the tunes are longer, more jam-y kind of music. A couple of tracks really sound like the Allman Brothers—not the songs but the atmosphere of the band." [45] To promote the record, the band appeared as the musical guests on Saturday Night Live on May 15, 2010. [46] The release of Mojo was followed by a North American summer tour. Prior to the tour, five of the band's guitars, including two owned by Petty, were stolen from their practice space in Culver City, California in April 2010. The items were recovered by Los Angeles police the next week. [47]

In 2012, the band went on a world tour that included their first European dates in 20 years and their first ever concerts in the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. [48] [49]

On July 29, 2014, Reprise Records released Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' thirteenth studio album, Hypnotic Eye . The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, becoming the first Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album to ever top the chart. [50] On November 20, 2015, the Tom Petty Radio channel debuted on SiriusXM. [51]

In 2017, the Heartbreakers embarked on a 40th Anniversary Tour of the United States. [52] The tour began on April 20 in Oklahoma City and ended on September 25 with a performance at the Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood, California. [52] [53] The Hollywood Bowl concert, which would ultimately be the Heartbreakers' final show, ended with a performance of "American Girl". [54]

On September 28, 2018, Reprise Records released An American Treasure , a 60-track career-spanning box set featuring dozens of previously unreleased recordings, alternate versions of classic songs, rarities, historic live performances and deep tracks. The box set was preceded by the first single, "Keep A Little Soul", in July 2018. The song is an unreleased outtake originally recorded in 1982 during the Long After Dark sessions. [55]


Petty's first appearance in film took place in 1978, when he had a cameo in FM . [56] He later had a small part in 1987's Made in Heaven and appeared in several episodes of It's Garry Shandling's Show between 1987 and 1990, playing himself as one of Garry Shandling's neighbors. [56] Petty was also featured in Shandling's other show, The Larry Sanders Show , as one of the Story within a story final guests. In the episode, Petty gets bumped from the show and nearly comes to blows with Greg Kinnear. [57]

Petty appeared in the 1997 film The Postman , directed by and starring Kevin Costner, as the Bridge City Mayor (from the dialogue it is implied that he is playing a future history version of himself). [56] In 2002, he appeared on The Simpsons in the episode "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation", along with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Costello, and Brian Setzer. In it, Petty spoofed himself as a tutor to Homer Simpson on the art of lyric writing, composing a brief song about a drunk girl driving down the road while concerned with the state of public schools. Later in the episode, he loses a toe during a riot. [58]

Petty had a recurring role as the voice of Elroy "Lucky" Kleinschmidt in the animated comedy series King of the Hill from 2004 to 2009. [56] In 2010, Petty made a five-second cameo appearance with comedian Andy Samberg in a musical video titled "Great Day" featured on the bonus DVD as part of The Lonely Island's new album Turtleneck & Chain . [59]

Views on artistic control

Petty was known as a staunch guardian of his artistic control and artistic freedom. In 1979, he was involved in a legal dispute when ABC Records was sold to MCA Records. He refused to be transferred to another record label without his consent. In May 1979, he filed for bankruptcy and was signed to the new MCA subsidiary Backstreet Records. [60]

In early 1981, the upcoming Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album, which would become Hard Promises , was slated to be the next MCA release with the new list price of $9.98, following Steely Dan's Gaucho and the Olivia Newton-John/Electric Light Orchestra Xanadu soundtrack. This so-called "superstar pricing" was $1.00 more than the usual list price of $8.98. [61] Petty voiced his objections to the price hike in the press and the issue became a popular cause among music fans. Non-delivery of the album and naming it Eight Ninety-Eight were considered, but eventually MCA decided against the price increase. [62]

In 1987, Petty sued tire company B.F. Goodrich for $1 million for using a song very similar to his song "Mary's New Car" in a TV commercial. The ad agency that produced the commercial had previously sought permission to use Petty's song but was refused. [63] A judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting further use of the ad and the suit was later settled out of court. [64]

Some have claimed that the Red Hot Chili Peppers single "Dani California", released in May 2006, is very similar to Petty's "Mary Jane's Last Dance". [65] [66] Petty told Rolling Stone Magazine, "I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there. And a lot of rock 'n' roll songs sound alike. Ask Chuck Berry. The Strokes took 'American Girl' for their song 'Last Nite', and I saw an interview with them where they actually admitted it. That made me laugh out loud. I was like, 'OK, good for you' ... If someone took my song note for note and stole it maliciously, then maybe [I'd sue]. But I don't believe in lawsuits much. I think there are enough frivolous lawsuits in this country without people fighting over pop songs." [67]

In January 2015, it was revealed that Petty and Jeff Lynne would receive royalties from Sam Smith's song "Stay with Me" after its writers acknowledged similarities between it and "I Won't Back Down". Petty and co-composer Lynne were awarded 12.5% of the royalties from "Stay with Me", and their names were added to the ASCAP song credit. [68] Petty clarified that he did not believe Smith plagiarized him, saying, "All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen. Most times you catch it before it gets out the studio door but in this case it got by. Sam's people were very understanding of our predicament and we easily came to an agreement". [69]

Private life

Petty married Jane Benyo in 1974, and they divorced in 1996. [4] Benyo once told mutual friend Stevie Nicks that she had met Petty at "the age of seventeen". Nicks misheard Benyo's North Florida accent, inspiring the title of her song "Edge of Seventeen". [70] Petty and Benyo had two daughters: Adria, a director, and Annakim, an artist. [71] Petty married Dana York on June 3, 2001, [72] and had a stepson, Dylan, from York's earlier marriage. [71]

In May 1987, an arsonist set fire to Petty's house in Encino, California. Firefighters were able to salvage the basement recording studio and the original tapes stored there, as well as his Gibson Dove acoustic guitar. His signature gray top hat, however, was destroyed. Petty later rebuilt the house with fire-resistant materials. [73] [74]

Petty spoke in 2014 of the benefits from his practice of Transcendental Meditation. [75]

Addiction issues

Petty struggled with heroin addiction for several years, from roughly 1996 through 1999. [76] He credited the emotional pain from the dissolution of his marriage to Benyo as a major contributing cause, but found that the drug only briefly helped relieve his depression before making it even worse. [77] He later said that he "wasn’t a guy that grooved on being a junkie. I was a more clandestine drug addict." [78] He further commented that "using heroin went against my grain. I didn’t want to be enslaved to anything. So I was always trying to figure out how to do less, and then that wouldn’t work. Tried to go cold turkey, and that wouldn’t work." [79] He eventually reached out for help from this therapist, went to a treatment center, and was able to successfully get off of heroin prior to the tour for Echo in mid-1999. [80] [81]

Petty successfully kept details regarding his heroin addiction secret from the public for nearly two decades. Although he spoke about the addiction during interviews for Peter Bogdanovich's 2007 documentary Runnin' Down a Dream, Petty subsequently changed his mind and forced the filmmaker to remove those scenes from the finished film. [78] In 2015, he finally revealed the details of his addiction during interviews for the biography Petty, written by his friend Warren Zanes. [80]


Petty was found unconscious at his home, not breathing and in full cardiac arrest, early in the morning of Monday, October 2, 2017. He was resuscitated and taken to the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California, where he died at 8:40pm PDT, (3:40am GMT), two weeks before his 67th birthday. [82]

After reports of Petty's hospitalization, premature reports of his death spread quickly and widely, [83] [84] and without official denial or confirmation, continued throughout the day until the band's management issued official confirmation shortly after Petty's actual death Monday evening. [85] While the official announcement said Petty collapsed early Monday morning, original reports claimed the incident happened Sunday night. [86]

On October 16, 2017, a memorial service was held at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades. [87]

On January 19, 2018, the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner announced that Petty had died accidentally from mixed drug toxicity, [88] a combination of fentanyl, oxycodone, acetylfentanyl and despropionyl fentanyl (all opioids); temazepam and alprazolam (both sedatives); and citalopram (an antidepressant). [89]

In a statement on his official website, Petty's wife and daughter said he had multiple medical problems, including emphysema, knee difficulties "and most significantly a fractured hip". He was prescribed pain medication for these problems and informed on the day of his death that his hip had graduated to a full break. The statement read, "[it] is our feeling that the pain was simply unbearable and was the cause for his over use of medication.[..] We feel confident that this was, as the coroner found, an unfortunate accident". [90]

On September 28, 2018, four days before the anniversary of his death, Petty's wife Dana gave an interview to Billboard about her husband's death saying that Petty put off hip surgery his doctors had recommended for some time. "He would do anything to help anyone – his bandmates, the crew, the fans – and that's why he did the last tour with a fractured hip. He was adamant. He found out a few days before the tour was gonna start – and that he had emphysema." Dana said that he was relying on drugs on the road to keep his hip pain under control but was looking forward to not needing them anymore. "That's why he wouldn't go to the hospital when his hip broke. He'd had it in mind it was his last tour and he owed it to his long-time crew, from decades some of them, and his fans." Dana said that Petty was in a good mood the day before his death, excited about the future saying, "He had those three shows in L.A. and the day before he died he was pounding his chest going, 'I'm on top of the world!' Never had he been so proud of himself, so happy, so looking forward to the future – and then he's gone." [91]


Petty owned and used a number of guitars over the years. From 1976 to 1982, his main instrument was a sunburst 1964 Fender Stratocaster. He also used a number of Rickenbacker guitars from 1979 onward, notably a 1965 Rose Morris 1993 and 1987 reissue of the Rose Morris 1997,[ clarification needed ] a 1967 360/12 and 1989 660/12TP. The Rickenbacker 660/12TP was designed by Petty (specifically the neck) and featured his signature from 1991 to 1997. [92]

For acoustic guitars, Petty had a signature C.F. Martin HD-40, and wrote virtually all of his songs on a Gibson Dove acoustic saved from his 1987 house fire. He also used a Gibson J-200 in a natural finish and a late 1970s Guild D25 12-string acoustic.

Petty's later amplifier setup featured two Fender Vibro-King 60-watt combos. [93]

Awards and honors

In 1994, You Got Lucky, a Petty tribute album featuring such bands as Everclear and Silkworm was released. [94]

In April 1996, Petty received UCLA's George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement. [95] The next month, Petty won the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers' Golden Note Award. [95] [96]

Hollywood Walk of Fame star Tom Petty Walk of Fame.JPG
Hollywood Walk of Fame star

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1999, for their contribution to the recording industry. [97]

In December 2001, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in New York. [98]

Petty received the Billboard Century Award, the organization's highest honor for creative achievement, at a ceremony on December 6, 2005, during the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. [99] [100]

In September 2006, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers received the keys to the city of Gainesville, Florida, where he and his bandmates either lived or grew up. [101] From July 2006 until 2007 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, featured an exhibit of Tom Petty items; much of the content was donated by Petty during a visit to his home by some of the Hall's curatorial staff. [102]

Peter Bogdanovich's documentary film on Petty's career titled Runnin' Down a Dream premiered at the New York Film Festival in October 2007. [103]

Petty was honored as MusiCares Person of the Year in February 2017 for his contributions to music and for his philanthropy. [104]

In October 2018, on what would have been the singer's 68th birthday, the city of Gainesville renamed the former Northeast Park, a park where a young Petty had often visited, as Tom Petty Park. [105]


1978 FM Himself
1987 Made in Heaven Stanky
1996 She's the One N/ASoundtrack
1997 The Postman Bridge City Mayor
2013 Sound City HimselfMusic Documentary
1979–2010 Saturday Night Live! Himself (musical guest)8 episodes
— "Buck Henry/Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers" (1979)
— "Howard Hesseman/Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers" (1983)
— "Steve Martin/Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers" (1989)
— "Kirstie Alley/Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers" (1992)
— "John Turturro/Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers" (1994)
— "Tom Hanks/Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers" (1996)
— "John Goodman/Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers" (1999)
— "Alec Baldwin/Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers" (2010)
1987–89 It's Garry Shandling's Show.Himself4 episodes
— "It's Gary Shandling's Christmas Show" (1987)
— "No Baby, No Show" (1987)
— "Vegas: Part 1" (1989)
— "Vegas: Part 2" (1989)
1989 Biography Himself (interviewee)Episode: "Johnny Cash: The Man in Black"
1998 The Larry Sanders Show HimselfEpisode: "Flip"
1999 Behind the Music HimselfEpisode: "Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers"
2002 The Simpsons Himself (voice role)Episode: "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation"
2004–09 King of the Hill Lucky / Mud Dobber (voice role)recurring role (28 episodes)
2008 Super Bowl XLII HimselfHalftime show
Credited as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers



with the Heartbreakers

with the Traveling Wilburys

with Mudcrutch

See also

Related Research Articles

Traveling Wilburys English–American musical group

The Traveling Wilburys were an English–American supergroup consisting of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. Originating from an idea discussed by Harrison and Lynne during the sessions for Harrison's 1987 album Cloud Nine, the band formed in April 1988 after the five members united to record a bonus track for Harrison's next European single. When this collaboration, "Handle with Care", was deemed too good for such a limited release, the group agreed to record a full album, titled Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. Following Orbison's death in December 1988, the band released a second album, which they titled Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3, in 1990.

Benmont Tench American musician

Benjamin Montmorency "Benmont" Tench III is an American musician and singer, best known as a founding member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

<i>Damn the Torpedoes</i> (album) 1979 studio album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Damn the Torpedoes is the third studio album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, released on October 20, 1979. This was the first of three Petty albums originally released by the Backstreet Records label, distributed by MCA Records. It built on the commercial success and critical acclaim of his two previous albums and reached #2 on the Billboard album chart. The album went on to become certified Triple Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

<i>Full Moon Fever</i> 1989 studio album by Tom Petty

Full Moon Fever is the debut solo studio album by Tom Petty, released on April 24, 1989, by MCA Records. It features contributions from members of his band the Heartbreakers, notably Mike Campbell, as well as Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and George Harrison, Petty's bandmates in the Traveling Wilburys. The record shows Petty exploring his musical roots with nods to his influences. The songwriting is mainly collaborations between Petty and Lynne, who was also a producer on the album. The album became a commercial and critical success peaking at No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and being certified 5× platinum in the United States and 6× platinum in Canada.

<i>Wildflowers</i> (Tom Petty album) 1994 studio album by Tom Petty

Wildflowers is the second solo studio album by American musician Tom Petty, released on November 1, 1994. The album was the first released by Petty after signing a contract with Warner Bros. Records and the first of three albums produced by Rick Rubin. The album was certified 3× platinum in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Mike Campbell (musician) American musician

Michael Wayne Campbell is an American guitarist, songwriter, and record producer. Campbell was a member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and co-wrote many of the band's hits with Petty, including "Refugee", "Here Comes My Girl", "You Got Lucky", and "Runnin' Down a Dream". His work outside the group includes composing and playing on the Don Henley hit "The Boys of Summer". Campbell, along with Neil Finn, joined Fleetwood Mac to replace lead guitarist Lindsey Buckingham on their world tour in 2018-19.

<i>Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1</i> 1988 studio album by Traveling Wilburys

The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 is the debut studio album by the English-American supergroup Traveling Wilburys, comprising George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. It was released in October 1988 to commercial success and critical acclaim. Although Harrison had long planned to start such a band, the project came about through happenstance. Harrison was in Los Angeles and in need of a B-side for a single from his Cloud Nine album, which resulted in the participants collaborating informally on the song "Handle with Care" at Dylan's home. Adopting alter egos as the five Wilbury brothers, they then recorded a full album, produced by Lynne and Harrison.

<i>Let Me Up (Ive Had Enough)</i> 1987 studio album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Let Me Up is the seventh studio album by the American band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, released in 1987. It features the most songwriting collaborations between Petty and lead guitarist Mike Campbell out of any Petty album. It is also the first album not to feature then-former bassist Ron Blair on any tracks.

Tom Leadon American musician

Tom Leadon is an American musician. He is one of the founding members of Tom Petty's original band, Mudcrutch, and remained its lead guitarist following its revival in 2007. He is the brother of Bernie Leadon, the former lead guitarist of the Eagles.

American Girl (Tom Petty song) 1977 song by Tom Petty

"American Girl" is a rock song written by Tom Petty and recorded by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for their self-titled debut album in 1976. It was released as a single and did not chart in the United States, but peaked at No. 40 in the UK for the week ending August 27, 1977. It was re-released in 1994 as the second single from Petty's Greatest Hits album and peaked at No. 68 in the U.S. Cash Box Top 100.

Even the Losers

Even the Losers is a song written by Tom Petty and recorded by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It is featured on their breakthrough hit 1979 album, Damn the Torpedoes. It is also featured on the band's 1993 Greatest Hits album. A live recording of it is included in the box set The Live Anthology. It has become one of the highest regarded songs of Tom Petty's repertoire. The song was not released as a single; it had a single release only in Australia. The song peaked at #11 on the Billboard lyric find.

Tom Petty discography

This is the discography of Tom Petty, who was an American singer, songwriter and musician. Petty released 13 studio albums as the lead singer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in addition to three solo albums.

<i>Mudcrutch</i> (album) 2008 studio album by Mudcrutch

Mudcrutch is the first studio album by American rock band Mudcrutch, released on April 29, 2008. The album was recorded during a two-week period in August 2007. Mudcrutch was originally formed in 1970. The band recorded several demos and singles but never released an album. Mudcrutch was disbanded by the record company in 1975 and did not play together again until recording this album 32 years later. After the initial break-up, band members Tom Petty, Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench went on to form Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

<i>Mojo</i> (album) 2010 studio album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Mojo is the 12th studio album by American rock band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, released on June 15, 2010 on CD and June 29 on BD. It was Petty's first album with the Heartbreakers in eight years. Mojo debuted at No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard 200, selling 125,000 copies in its first week of release. The album was also the band's first full album with bassist Ron Blair since 1981's Hard Promises, as he played on only two tracks on the previous Heartbreakers album, The Last DJ.

Inside Out (Traveling Wilburys song) 1990 song composed by Bob Dylan performed by Traveling Wilburys

"Inside Out" is a song by the British–American supergroup the Traveling Wilburys from their 1990 album Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3. It was written by all the members of the band, which had been reduced to a foursome following the death of Roy Orbison in December 1988, and it was the first song they worked on for the album. The lyrics address environmental issues and describe a world turned yellow.

<i>An American Treasure</i> 2018 Tom Petty compilation album

An American Treasure is a 2018 compilation album and box set of Tom Petty, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Mudcrutch released by Reprise Records on September 28, 2018. The set includes several rare and unreleased songs alongside more obscure album tracks that showcase Petty's songwriting. The majority of the content is Heartbreakers material but there are also several solo songs and some recordings by Mudcrutch. Critical reception has been positive.

<i>The Best of Everything</i> (album) 2019 greatest hits album by Tom Petty

The Best of Everything is a 2019 greatest hits album with recordings made by Tom Petty, with his backing band The Heartbreakers, as a solo artist, and with Mudcrutch. It was released on March 1.


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