Tom Petty, a singer songwriter who defied industry pressures to create a different but effective blend of Southern California rock with a Southern Man twang, died Monday after suffering cardiac arrest. He was 66.
Petty’s manager confirmed the death after some confusion about his life status, and a growing rumor and concern from fans that he had died.
Petty’s songs, brought to fruition by his band The Heartbreakers, ruled FM rock radio airwaves for decades and became staples for a generation. His hits included songs like “Refugee,” “Free Fallin'” and “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and sold in the millions as The Heartbreakers toured arenas and music festivals well into 2017.
Petty was honored with an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and had been officially granted Rock Legend status – which he worked hard to eschew. His sound relied on the band’s musicianship and hard-headed will never to conform or sell out. In the 1989 chart buster “I Won’t Back Down” he stated his position relative to his music clearly: “You can stand me up at the gates of hell – But I won’t back down.”
“I like to devote my time and energy to being a musician,” he told The New York Times in 1981. “But sometimes there’s a communications breakdown and, when that happens, you just have to stand up for yourself.”