Tom Petty, the frontman of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, has died, according to CBS News. Petty, 66, was transported to UCLA Santa Monica Hospital on Sunday night after he suffered a cardiac arrest. He was discovered unconscious and not breathing at his home in Malibu, TMZ reported.
Petty and his Florida-based band formed in the ‘70s and are known for hit songs such as “American Girl,” “Free Fallin’,” “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” “Learning to Fly,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “Breakdown.” They released their self-titled debut album in 1976 but didn’t officially have a number-one hit on the Billboard 100 chart until they released “Hypnotic Eye” in 2014.
The band last performed exactly one week ago Monday at the Hollywood Bowl. It was the final show from their 40th-anniversary tour. Petty previously told Rolling Stone that the tour would likely be the group’s last. He explained that they were all in their 60s, and he, in particular, was eager to spend more time with his young granddaughter. Petty had two daughters with his first wife, Jane Benyo.
Over the course of his career, Petty released 13 albums with his band and three solo albums. He was also a member of the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys in the ‘80s.
Petty kept busy with his SiriusXM channel, Tom Petty Radio, which included interviews with fellow musicians. He played the character Lucky in the animated series “King of the Hill” and also appeared in the movie “The Postman” opposite Kevin Costner. He made cameos in the film “FM” and “Made in Heaven,” and in 1996 his band wrote and recorded the soundtrack for the movie “She’s The One,” starring Jennifer Aniston.
Petty once told Rolling Stone that music became his passion after he met Elvis Presley when he was 11 years old. Petty, the son of an insurance salesman, traded his slingshot for some Presley and Little Richard records and was bitten by the music bug. He recalled, “That was the end of doing anything other than music with my life. I didn’t want anything to fall back on because I was not going to fall back.”
He learned to play the guitar and started performing with various bands in Gainesville, Fla., by the time he was 14. He quit high school three years later to go on the road with a band called Mudcrutch, which included guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench, who would later help him form Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.