Tom Petty dead at 66; iconic rocker was a Grammy winner and a member of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

October 3, 2017

by Carla Hay

Tom Petty
Tom Petty at the Mountain Jam Festival in Hunter Mountain, New York, on June 17, 2017 (Photo by Patrick Tewey/Mountain Jam)

After his death was prematurely reported by CBS News, rock singer/songwriter Tom Petty died on the night of October 2, 2017, at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. His death came a day after he suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu, California, according to what his spokesperson Carla Sacks told the Associated Press. CBS News reported and later retracted Petty’s obituary several hours before he actually died.

Petty began his music career in his hometown of Gainesville, Florida, before relocating to Los Angeles with his band Mudcrutch.  He was best known for his work with his band the Heartbreakers, who had a long string of popular songs dating back to the band’s debut in 1976, including “Refugee,” “American Girl,” “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “The Waiting” and “Learning to Fly.” Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2017, Petty and the Heartbreakers were on their 40th anniversary tour, which Petty told the media would probably be the band’s last tour.

Petty was also a member of the short-lived rock supergroup the Traveling Wilburys, whose other members were Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne.  Petty also had a successful solo career, which began with his 1989 multiplatinum album “Full Moon Fever,” whose hits included “Free Fallin’,” “I Won’t Back Down” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream.”

Petty won three Grammys in his career:  First, with the Traveling Wilburys (for the 1988 album “Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1”); then as a solo artist (for the 1994 song “You Don’t Know How It Feels”); and finally with the Heartbreakers (for the 2007 documentary “Runnin’ Down a Dream”).  In 2017, Petty was named MusiCares Person of the Year.

Petty was married twice: to Jane Benyo (from 1974 to 1996) and to his widow, Dana York, whom he married in 2001. He had two daughters (Adria and AnnaKim Violette) from his marriage to Benyo, as well as a stepson named Dylan from his marriage to York.

January 18, 2018 UPDATE: According to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner, Petty did not die of cardiac arrest, as had originally reported. His cause of death was an accidental overdose of multiple drugs.

Jerry Lewis dead at 91; entertainer was an icon in comedy

April 20, 2017

by John Larson

Jerry Lewis, who was considered a legend in comedy, died in Las Vegas on August 20, 2017, according to the Associated Press. He was 91.

Lewis (whose real name was Joe Levitch) began entertaining at the age of 5 as part of his parents’ vaudeville act. He rose to fame in his early 20s as a comedy duo with Dean Martin.  It was a partnership that lasted from 1946 to 1956, and included the TV series “The Martin and Lewis Show,” as well a several movies, including “That’s My Boy, “The Stooge” and “Pardners.” Lewis’ other well-known movies included “The Nutty Professor” and “The King of Comedy.”

From 1966 to 2010, Lewis hosted a Labor Day weekend telethon to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He served as MDA chairman until 2011.  He had many health problems that he battled over the years, including Lewis had had prostate cancer, diabetes, pulmonary fibrosis and heart disease.

Lewis had six sons with his first wife Patti Palmer, whom he was married to from 1944 to 1982.  Lewis and his second wide SanDee Pitnick (whom he married in 1983), had a daughter together

Glen Campbell dead at 81 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease

August 9, 2017

by John Larson

After battling Alzheimer’s disease for several years, Glen Campbell, an iconic entertainer in country music, died in Nashville on August 8, 2017, according to the Associated Press. He was 81. Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011.

Campbell rose to fame in the 1960s was best known for his hit 1975 “Rhinestone Cowboy,” which was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. His other hit songs included “Southern Nights,” “Galveston” and “It’s Only Make Believe.” The versatile entertainer was also an actor and TV host. He starred in “Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour” on CBS from 1969 to 1972. Campbell, who admitted having addictions to drugs and alcohol for most of his career, won five Grammys and sold 45 million records worldwide.

He was the subject of the 2014 documentary film “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me,” which chronicled his last concert tour and his life dealing with Alzheimer’s. His last studio album, “Adios,” was released in June 2017.

Campbell his survived by his fourth wife, Kim; eight children; and 10 grandchildren.

Chuck Berry dead at 90; musician was a pioneer of rock and roll

March 18, 2017

by Carla Hay

Chuck Berry in the 1987 movie "Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll"
Chuck Berry in the 1987 movie “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Chuck Berry, one of the most influential pioneers of rock music, died on March 18, 2017, at his home in a suburb of St. Louis. He was 90.  According to the Associated Press: “Emergency responders summoned to Berry’s residence by his caretaker about 12:40 p.m. found him unresponsive, police in Missouri’s St. Charles County said in a statement. Attempts to revive Berry failed, and he was pronounced dead shortly before 1:30 p.m., police said.”

Born in St. Louis on October 18, 1926, Berry influenced countless people, including numerous musicians who would later go on to be influential musical superstars themselves, such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Berry, who was renowned for his guitar playing, shot to fame in 1955 with his recording of “Maybellene.” Other iconic hits followed, including “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Johnny B. Goode,” ”School Day,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “Too Much Monkey Business,” ”Nadine” and ”No Particular Place To Go.” His last big hit was 1972’s “My Ding-a-Ling,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Berry, whose “duck walk” during performances became his signature stage move, appeared in several movies. The most famous was the documentary “Hail! Hail! Rock’n’Roll,” which chronicled two all-star concerts in St. Louis celebrating Berry’s 60th birthday  in 1986. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards was the chief organizer of the concerts, which also featured Linda Ronstadt, Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Etta James, Johnnie Johnson, Steve Jordan, Bobby Keys, Julian Lennon. Richards was also one of the producers of “Hail! Hail! Rock’n’Roll,” which was directed by Taylor Hackford and released in 1987.

During his life, Berry also got into trouble with the law, having been arrested for armed robbery in 1944, transporting a minor across state lines for sexual intercourse in 1959, and tax evasion in 1979, and marijuana possession in 1990.  He was incarcerated for all of the convictions, except for the last one, when he pled guilty and received a suspended sentence and two years of probation. In 1990, he was also sued by several women who claimed that he had secretly videotaped them in a ladies’ bathroom without their permission. The case was settled out of court in 1994. Berry also had several legal battles over royalties and copyrights for his music, since he claimed he was cheated out of millions of dollars over these issues.

As many legal problems that he had throughout his life, Berry also many more accolades, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and being among the first group of people inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His legacy and influence will be felt for generations to come.