US musician Tom Petty dies aged 66

53 views
US musician Tom Petty

US musician Tom Petty has died in California aged 66, says a statement issued on behalf of his family.

Petty was found unconscious, not breathing and in full cardiac arrest at his Malibu home early on Monday.

He was taken to hospital, but could not be revived and died later that evening.

Petty was best known as the lead singer of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers rock band, producing such hits as American Girl, Breakdown, Free Fallin’, Learning to Fly and Refugee.

“He died peacefully at 20:40 Pacific time (03:40 GMT Tuesday) surrounded by family, his bandmates and friends,” said his long-time manager Tony Dimitriades.

Petty and the band were on the forefront of the heartland rock movement, alongside artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger. The genre eschews the synthesizer-based music and fashion elements.

Petty was also a co-founder of the Traveling Wilburys group in the late 1980s, touring with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and George Harrison.

“It’s shocking, crushing news,” said Dylan, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“I thought the world of Tom. He was great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him.”

Petty also found solo success in 1989 with his album Full Moon Fever, which featured one of his most popular songs Free Fallin’, co-written with Jeff Lynne.

In 2002, Petty was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Petty was born in Gainesville, Florida, in 1950.

According to legend, he decided to become a musician after shaking Elvis Presley’s hand in the 1950s. He traded his slingshot for a box of records and never looked back.

Aged 17, Petty dropped out of school to join Mudcrutch with future Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench.

The band learned their craft by listening to pop radio, he once told NPR.

In the early 1970s, they moved to Los Angeles in the hope of finding a record contract. Petty succeeded, but the band fell apart soon after.

It was not until 1975 that the musicians reunited and The Heartbreakers were formed. The quintet released their self-titled debut a year later.

This summer, the musicians performed in London’s Hyde Park.

That show was intended to be a celebration of The Heartbreakers’ 40th anniversary, but now serves as the band’s UK swan song.

The band wrapped up their tour just a week ago.