Tom Petty, down-to-Earth rock su­per­star, dies at 66

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - By Hil­lel Italie As­so­ci­ated Press Na­tional Writer

Tom Petty, an old-fash­ioned rock su­per­star and ev­ery­man who drew upon the Byrds, the Bea­tles and other bands he wor­shipped as a boy and pro­duced new clas­sics such as “Free Fallin,’” “Refugee” and “Amer­i­can Girl,” has died. He was 66.

Petty died Mon­day night at UCLA Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Los An­ge­les a day af­ter he suf­fered car­diac ar­rest at his home in Mal­ibu, Cal­i­for­nia, spokes­woman Carla Sacks said.

Petty and his long­time band the Heart­break­ers had re­cently com­pleted a 40th-anniversary tour, one he hinted would be their last.

“I’m think­ing it may be the last trip around the coun­try,” Petty told Rolling Stone last year. “We’re all on the back­side of our 60s. 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. This tour will take me away for four months. With a lit­tle kid, that’s a lot of time.”

Usu­ally backed by the Heart­break­ers, Petty broke through in the 1970s and went on to sell more than 80 mil­lion records. The Gainesville, Florida, na­tive with the shaggy blond hair and gaunt fea­tures was loved for his melodic hard rock, nasally vo­cals and downto-earth style. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which in­ducted Petty and the Heart­break­ers in 2002, praised them as “durable, re­source­ful, hard- work­ing, like­able and un­pre­ten­tious.”

He was a beloved mem­ber of the rock com­mu­nity and mu­si­cians sent their con­do­lences. Bob Dy­lan, a long­time friend, tweeted “I thought the world of Tom. He was great per­former, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never for­get him.” Ringo Starr, fea­tured in the video for “I Won’t Back Down,” tweeted “God bless Tom Petty.” Eric Clap­ton is­sued a state­ment that Petty was “such a huge part of our mu­si­cal his­tory, there’ll never be an­other like him.”

Petty’s al­bums in­cluded “Damn the Tor­pe­does,” ‘’Hard Prom­ises” and “Full Moon Fever,” although his first No. 1 did not come un­til 2014 and “Hyp­notic Eye.” As a song­writer, he fo­cused of­ten on daily strug­gles and the will to over­come them, most mem­o­rably on “Refugee,” “Even the Losers” and “I Won’t Back Down.”

“It’s sort of the clas­sic theme of a lot of the work I’ve done,” he told The As­so­ci­ated Press in 1989. “I think faith is very im­por­tant just to get through life. I think it’s re­ally im­por­tant that you be­lieve in your­self, first of all. It’s a very hard to thing to come by. But when you get it, it’s in­valu­able.”

Petty was both a mu­si­cian and ob­ses­sive fan, one who met his child­hood he­roes and lived out the fan­tasies of count­less young rock lovers.

Photo by O. Sweeney / Invision / AP, File

Tom Petty per­forms dur­ing his “40th Anniversary Tour” in Philadel­phia.

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