FREE FALLIN’ TOM PETTY’S FINAL BOW
The world fare wells a beloved music legend
He was a skinny blond singer who burst on to the ’70s music scene with rock anthems like “I Won’t Back Down”. Now Tom Petty has taken his final breath. At the age of 66, the legendary musician thought he had years – if not decades – left to kick back, enjoy life and dote on his new granddaughter. But fate had other plans, with Tom dying of a heart attack at his Los Angeles home last week.
Like so many good rock ’n’ roll stories, Tom’s started with ElvisE Presley. Growing up in Florida,F his life changed forever ata age 11, when The King camec to town to shoot his moviem Follow that Dream. The youngstery got to meet him anda later recalled, “I caught theth fever that day and I never gotg rid of it.”
A year later, his parents boughtb him a guitar and, inspiredin by The Beatles, Tom formedfo his own band. He explained, “There was the way to do it. You get your friends and you’re a self-contained unit. It looked so much fun.”
By 20, he was performing in a group called Mudcrutch. Four years later, Tom married his teen sweetheart Jane Benyo – with whom he had two daughters, artist Anna Kim and film director Adria.
Soon after, he hit the big time with his band The Heartbreakers, and they dominated the charts with songs including “Refugee”, “Learning to Fly” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”. He sold more than 80 million albums and won three Grammys.
In 1988, Tom teamed up with music greats Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and George Harrison to form the Traveling Wilburys, but he never turned his back on the Heartbreakers, explaining, “We get on so well, it’s embarrassing.”
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers went on tour this year to mark their 40th anniversary, and Tom hinted that it would be their last. “We’re all on the backside of our 60s,” he said. “I have a granddaughter now I’d like to see as much as I can. I don’t want to spend my life on the road.”
On October 2, just a few days after the band’s final concert, Tom’s wife Dana – who he married in 2001 – found him unconscious on the floor of their Malibu home. His life support was turned off in hospital soon after.
Anna Kim paid tribute on social media, saying, “It’s going to be healing to know I will never go a day without hearing his music. I feel grateful for having the greatest rock star as a dad.”
Heartbroken family: Tom with daughter Adria (top left) and wife Dana. Above: Daughter AnnaKim shared this doting image on Instagram.
The rock icon was looking forward to the quiet life.
A giant on the stage and in the charts.