Posted: Monday, October 2, 2017 – 1:07 PM
Tom Petty, the unpretentious, hard-working Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter whose band the Heartbreakers remained true to its classic-rock roots though decades of fleeting musical fads and styles, was near death Monday following an apparent heart attack.
Petty was found unconscious and non-responsive in his Malibu home late Sunday after suffering a full cardiac arrest, according various news reports.
Without identifying Petty as the patient, a county Fire Department official said the agency responded around 10:45 p.m. Sunday to a report of an unconscious male patient in the 27400 block of West Pacific Coast Highway and took the person to a hospital “in full cardiac arrest.”
According to media reports, the 66-year-old rocker was taken to UCLA Medical Center Santa Monica, where he was put on life support and his pulse returned. Later the decision was made to remove him from life support after it was found that he was lacking brain activity, the website TMZ reported.
CBS reported Monday morning that Petty had died, citing the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD later retracted that information, conceding that the agency had “inadvertently” given information to “some media sources” about the singer’s death.
“However, the LAPD has no investigative role in this matter,” according to the LAPD. “We apologize for any inconvenience in this reporting.”
Petty is a hard-working, likeable and unpretentious musician whose backing band the Heartbreakers is considered among the most dependable classic rock groups of the last quarter century. Like fellow artists Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Petty and the Heartbreakers was always considered a “people’s band,” whose concise, tuneful songs spoke of everyday struggles.
His last stage appearance took place Sept. 25 at the Hollywood Bowl, the last of three sold-out shows there marking the finale of the band’s extensive North American tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of their self-titled debut album. On Sept. 17, Petty and the Heartbreakers headlined the third night of Kaaboo Del Mar in San Diego.
Petty once said, “I’d like to see us break some new ground and leave some sort of mark on the music. That would be the nicest thing — to give something back, as noble as it sounds. If you could make some little dent in rock, where that little area is yours — that’s what I’m striving for now.”
Petty and his longtime band mates first came together in the early 1970s in their hometown of Gainesville, Florida. Their self-titled debut album appeared in 1976, and the band scored hits over several decades, including “American Girl,” “Free Fallin’,” “Refugee” and “I Won’t Back Down.” He was also a member of the collective the Traveling Wilburys in the late 1980s alongside Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne.
Known for a slurred, relaxed vocal delivery, a scarecrow pose and swaying blond hair, Petty often recalled Bob Dylan and Roger McGuinn. Born and raised in northern Florida, he began playing music while he was still in high school and at 17, he formed Mudcrutch, which also included future Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench.
By 1970, Mudcrutch had moved to Los Angeles with hopes of finding a record contract.
Fellow music star Sheryl Crow tweeted her well wishes to Petty, saying “I love you so much. You are in my prayers.”
© Agence France-Presse