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.

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