Tom Petty, American singer/songwriter and celebrated renaissance man, died in Los Angeles late Monday afternoon. He was 66 years old.
After suffering cardiac arrest, Petty passed away, surrounded by loving family, friends, and band members.
From his work with the Heartbreakers to his solo career, Petty sold over 80 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling musicians of all time. Even so, Petty’s music remained brilliantly simple and down-to-earth, dodging major label reputations of pumping out plastic music behind a household name. Petty’s heart and soul was strongly embedded in the roots of his southern upbringing, and no amount of fame and fortune could pull the Elvis, the Rolling Stones, the Bob Dylan or the Beatles out of him. Songs like “American Girl,” with its eager, bouncy drumbeat arguably went on to give birth to the Strokes and many other contemporary post-punk revival bands (sound familiar?), while American classics such as “Free Fallin’” have permanently earned a spot in textbooks and high school English classes as an example of tight-lipped succinctness and poise in songwriting.
Petty, who was born in Gainesville, Florida, never took his position for granted, continuing to play and release music with his band until the day he passed. He was halftime entertainment at the 2008 Super Bowl, entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, and shared the stage with countless other stars through his 40 year musical career. He took the hand he was dealt and made a shining, illustrious career. His was one with no asterisks or “what-abouts,” just love for the art and a couple stories to tell. Over the next couple weeks, quite a few articles and legacy pieces will come out detailing Petty’s renowned career, both as a songwriter and as a human being. If you haven’t gone down the rabbit hole yet, read one of those articles to come and dive into our playlist of Petty’s musical memories. Better yet, ask your dad what his favorite Tom Petty track is, chances are he has his own story’s got a little bit to say about the legendary man.