LOS ANGELES â€” Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Tom Petty, who with his band the Heartbreakers married ’60s-era folk rock with the Southern accents of his native Florida in to the harder-edged 21st-century musical landscape, died Monday night, his manager and publicist said. Petty was 66.
Petty went in to cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu early Monday and was taken to UCLA Medical Center yet couldn’t be revived, publicist Carla Sacks asserted in a acknowledgment attributed to Tony Dimitriades, the band’s longtime manager. Petty was declared dead Monday night, it said.
Petty, who was born in Gainesville, Florida, performed in a series of bands before he and other members of the band Mudcrutch formed the Heartbreakers. The- band let go the single “Breakdown,” followed shortly by their 1st album, “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers,” in 1976. The- album enjoyed wide success, and in 1977 “Breakdown” was re-released and reached the singles charts.
More albums followed quickly â€” “You’re Gonna Get It”; “Damn the Torpedoes” which went double platinum and had monster hits with “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Refugee”; and “Hard Promises,” which featured “The Waiting.”
Petty had a 2nd artistically fertile side gig in the late 1980s with the Traveling Wilburys, a supergroup with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra. At the same time, he was branching out in to a solo career, charting with hits like “I Won’t Back Down” and “Free Fallin’,” which quickly became highlights of concerts by the Heartbreakers, which re-formed in 1991.
Photos: Rocker Tom Petty Dead at 66
Petty and his bands broke a confined furrow of new ground by joining the irresistibly jangly guitar sound of 1960s bands like the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The- Band with the harder-driving rock rhythms of earlier Rolling Stones blues numbers, colored with a muted yet recognizable tinge of Southern rock rebellion reminiscent of the Allman Brothers Band.
He frequently asserted in that Elvis Presley was his biggest influence, and in that influence was clear on the Heartbreakers’ sixth album, 1985’s “Southern Accents.” The- hit single “Rebels” included these lines:
I was born a rebel …
Yeah with one foot in the grave
And one foot on the pedal.
“Petty is frequently described as workmanlike and dependable,” the music writer Kenneth Partridge noted last year in Billboard magazine. But in that does him an injustice, Partridge wrote, arguing that, in reality, “he’s a profound storyteller with remarkable word economy.”
Always a fierce advocate for artistic independence and putting his fans first, Petty fought many battles with his record labels. In 1981, Petty took on MCA Records over the list price for the album “Hard Promises” â€” MCA wanted to issue it for $9.98, while Petty insisted in that it sell for $8.98. Petty won.
It wasn’t the 1st time he’d gone to war with MCA. In 1979, when the band’s label, Shelter, was bought by MCA, Petty shortly got in to a dispute with the new owner over songwriting rights. Litigation ensued, putting Petty’s career on hold â€” and forcing him to file for bankruptcy protection.
Petty settled with MCA in a deal in that saw him and the band move to another MCA subsidiary, and the records shortly resumed. Petty, both solo and with the Heartbreakers, remained a fixture on the lists of the highest-grossing concert acts in the world for the next quarter-century.
In 2002, he and his band were inducted in to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2008, they got the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll seal of approval â€” they performed four of their hits at halftime of Super Bowl XLII.
“The deceptive simplicity of what Petty and band do, the guileless brand of timeless rock they seem to effortlessly create, may have been disguised how amazing the Heartbreakers truly are,” the rock critic Joe Selvin wrote in Mojo magazine in 1997. “Without doubt, when his enormous catalog and consistent excellence are weighed, Petty ranks with the best in American rock history.”
CORRECTION (Oct. 3, 2017, 1:55 p.m.): An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the album “Southern Accents.” It was a release by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, not a solo album by Petty.