|Born||Thomas Earl Petty
(1950-10-20)October 20, 1950 Gainesville, Florida, U.S.
|Died||October 2, 2017(2017-10-02) (aged 66)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Accidental drug overdose|
(m. 1974; div. 1996)
Dana York (m. 2001)
Thomas Earl Petty (October 20, 1950 – October 2, 2017) was an American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, and actor.
He was the lead vocalist and guitarist of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, formed in 1976.
Petty recorded a number of hit singles with the Heartbreakers and as a solo artist.
In his career, he sold more than 80 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
Petty died of an accidental drug overdose on October 2, 2017, one week after the end of the Heartbreakers' 40th Anniversary Tour.
Petty was born October 20, 1950, in Gainesville, Florida, the first of two sons of Kitty (Katherine) Petty, a local tax office worker, and Earl Petty, who was a traveling salesman.
He had a brother, Bruce, who was seven years younger.
Of that meeting with Presley, Petty said, "Elvis glowed."
"The minute I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show—and it's true of thousands of guys—there was the way out.
There was the way to do it.
You get your friends and you're a self-contained unit.
And you make the music.
And it looked like so much fun.
It was something I identified with.
I had never been hugely into sports.
I had been a big fan of Elvis.
But I really saw in the Beatles that here's something I could do.
I knew I could do it.
It wasn't long before there were groups springing up in garages all over the place."
He dropped out of high school at age 17 to play bass with his newly formed band.
He credited the group with inspiring him by demonstrating that he and musicians like him could make it in rock and roll.
Don Felder, a fellow Gainesville resident, who later joined the Eagles, claimed in his autobiography that he was one of his first guitar teachers although Petty said that Felder taught him to play piano instead.
As a young man, Petty worked briefly on the grounds crew of the University of Florida, but never attended as a student.
An Ogeechee lime tree that he purportedly planted while employed at the university is now called the Tom Petty tree (Petty stated that he did not recall planting any trees).
He also worked briefly as a gravedigger.
Petty also overcame a difficult relationship with his father.
According to Petty, his father found it difficult to accept that Petty was "a mild-mannered kid who was interested in the arts" and subjected him to verbal and physical abuse on a regular basis.
Petty has described his father as a "wild, gambling drinker guy".
Petty was close to his mother and remained close to his brother, Bruce.
1976–1987: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Main article: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Shortly after embracing his musical aspirations, Petty started a band known as the Epics, later to evolve into Mudcrutch.
Their only single, "Depot Street", released in 1975 by Shelter Records, failed to chart.
After Mudcrutch split up, Petty reluctantly agreed to pursue a solo career.
Tench decided to form his own group, whose sound Petty appreciated.
Their eponymous debut album gained minute popularity amongst American audiences, achieving greater success in Britain.
40 after the band toured in the United Kingdom in support of Nils Lofgren.
Their third album, Damn the Torpedoes, quickly went platinum, selling nearly two million copies; it includes their breakthrough singles "Don't Do Me Like That", "Here Comes My Girl", "Even the Losers" and "Refugee".
The album also featured Petty's first duet, "Insider" with Stevie Nicks.
The album contained the hit "You Got Lucky".
Southern Accents was also released in 1985.
The ensuing tour led to the live album Pack Up the Plantation: Live!
They also played some dates with the Grateful Dead in 1986 and 1987.
1988–1991: Traveling Wilburys and solo career
The band's first song, "Handle with Care", was intended as a B-side of one of Harrison's singles, but was judged too good for that purpose and the group decided to record a full album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.
A second Wilburys album, mischievously titled Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 and recorded without the recently deceased Orbison, followed in 1990.
The album was named Vol. 3 as a response to a series of bootlegged studio sessions being sold as Travelling Wilburys Vol. 2.
Petty incorporated Traveling Wilburys songs into his live shows, consistently playing "Handle with Care" in shows from 2003 to 2006, and for his 2008 tour adding "surprises" such as "End of the Line" to the set list.
It was nominally his first solo album, although several Heartbreakers and other well-known musicians participated: Mike Campbell co-produced the album with Petty and Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, and backing musicians included Campbell, Lynne, and fellow Wilburys Roy Orbison and George Harrison (Ringo Starr appears on drums in the video for "I Won't Back Down", but they were actually performed by Phil Jones).
Petty and the Heartbreakers reformed in 1991 and released Into the Great Wide Open, which was co-produced by Lynne and included the hit singles "Learning To Fly" and "Into the Great Wide Open", the latter featuring Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway in the music video.
Before leaving MCA Records, Petty and the Heartbreakers got together to record, live in the studio, two new songs for a Greatest Hits package: "Mary Jane's Last Dance" and Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air".
This was Stan Lynch's last recorded performance with the Heartbreakers.
Petty commented "He left right after the session without really saying goodbye."
The package went on to sell over ten million copies, therefore receiving diamond certification by the RIAA.
1991–2017: Move to Warner Bros. Records
In 1989, while still under contract to MCA, Petty secretly signed a lucrative deal with Warner Bros. Records, to which the Traveling Wilburys had been signed.
His first album on his new label, 1994's Wildflowers (Petty's second of three solo albums), included the highly beloved title track, as well as the singles "You Don't Know How It Feels", "You Wreck Me", "It's Good to Be King", and "A Higher Place".
The album, produced by Rick Rubin, sold over three million copies in the United States.
The album also included a cover of "Asshole", a song by Beck.
The same year, the band accompanied Johnny Cash on Unchained (provisionally entitled "Petty Cash"), for which Cash would win a Grammy for Best Country Album (Cash would later cover Petty's "I Won't Back Down" on American III: Solitary Man).
In 1999, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released their last album with Rubin at the helm, Echo.
Two songs were released as singles in the U.S., "Room at the Top" and "Free Girl Now".
The album reached number 10 in the U.S. album charts.
The following year, they played "Taxman", "I Need You" and "Handle with Care" (joined for the last by Jeff Lynne, Dhani Harrison, and Jim Keltner) at the Concert for George in honor of Petty's friend and former bandmate George Harrison.
Petty's 2002 release, The Last DJ, was an album-length critique of the practices within the music industry.
The title track, inspired by Los Angeles radio personality Jim Ladd, bemoaned the end of the freedom that radio DJs once had to personally select songs for their station's playlists.
The album peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200 album chart in the United States.
In 2005, Petty began hosting his own show "Buried Treasure" on XM Satellite Radio, on which he shared selections from his personal record collection.
In 2006, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers headlined the fifth annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival as part of their "30th Anniversary Tour".
Nicks joined Petty and the Heartbreakers on stage for "a selection of songs" including "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around".
Highway Companion was briefly promoted on the tour with the Heartbreakers in 2006, with performances of "Saving Grace", "Square One", "Down South" and "Flirting with Time".
The quintet recorded an album of 14 songs that was released on April 29, 2008 (on iTunes, an additional song "Special Place" was available if the album was pre-ordered).
The band supported the album with a brief tour of California in the spring of 2008.
That summer, the band toured North America with Steve Winwood as the opening act.
Winwood joined Petty and the Heartbreakers on stage at select shows and performed his Spencer Davis Group hit "Gimme Some Lovin'", and occasionally he performed his Blind Faith hit "Can't Find My Way Home".
In November 2009 the boxed set The Live Anthology, a compilation of live recordings from 1978 to 2006, was released.
Petty described the album as "Blues-based.
Some of the tunes are longer, more jam-y kind of music.
A couple of tracks really sound like the Allman Brothers—not the songs but the atmosphere of the band."
To promote the record, the band appeared as the musical guests on Saturday Night Live on May 15, 2010.
The release of Mojo was followed by a North American summer tour.
Prior to the tour, five of the band's guitars, including two owned by Petty, were stolen from their practice space in Culver City, California in April 2010.
The items were recovered by Los Angeles police the next week.
The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, becoming the first Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album to ever top the chart.
On November 20, 2015, the Tom Petty Radio channel debuted on SiriusXM.
In 2017, the Heartbreakers embarked on a 40th Anniversary Tour of the United States.
The Hollywood Bowl concert, which would ultimately be the Heartbreakers' final show, ended with a performance of "American Girl".
On September 28, 2018, Reprise Records released An American Treasure, a 60-track career-spanning box set featuring dozens of previously unreleased recordings, alternate versions of classic songs, rarities, historic live performances and deep tracks.
The box set was preceded by the first single, "Keep A Little Soul", in July 2018.
The song is an unreleased outtake originally recorded in 1982 during the Long After Dark sessions.
Petty's first appearance in film took place in 1978, when he had a cameo in FM.
In the episode, Petty gets bumped from the show and nearly comes to blows with Greg Kinnear.
Later in the episode, he loses a toe during a riot.
In 2010, Petty made a five-second cameo appearance with comedian Andy Samberg in a musical video titled "Great Day" featured on the bonus DVD as part of The Lonely Island's new album Turtleneck & Chain.
Views on artistic control
He refused to be transferred to another record label without his consent.
In May 1979, he filed for bankruptcy and was signed to the new MCA subsidiary Backstreet Records.
In early 1981, the upcoming Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album, which would become Hard Promises, was slated to be the next MCA release with the new list price of $9.98, following Steely Dan's Gaucho and the Olivia Newton-John/Electric Light Orchestra Xanadu soundtrack.
This so-called "superstar pricing" was $1.00 more than the usual list price of $8.98.
Petty voiced his objections to the price hike in the press and the issue became a popular cause among music fans.
Non-delivery of the album and naming it Eight Ninety-Eight were considered, but eventually MCA decided against the price increase.
In 1987, Petty sued tire company B.F. for $1 million for using a song very similar to his song "Mary's New Car" in a TV commercial. Goodrich
The ad agency that produced the commercial had previously sought permission to use Petty's song but was refused.
A judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting further use of the ad and the suit was later settled out of court.
Petty told Rolling Stone Magazine, "I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there.
And a lot of rock 'n' roll songs sound alike.
Ask Chuck Berry.
That made me laugh out loud.
I was like, 'OK, good for you' ...
If someone took my song note for note and stole it maliciously, then maybe [I'd sue].
But I don't believe in lawsuits much.
I think there are enough frivolous lawsuits in this country without people fighting over pop songs."
Petty and co-composer Lynne were each awarded 12.5% of the royalties from "Stay with Me", and their names were added to the ASCAP song credit.
Petty clarified that he did not believe Smith plagiarized him, saying, "All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen.
Most times you catch it before it gets out the studio door but in this case it got by.
Sam's people were very understanding of our predicament and we easily came to an agreement".
Petty married Jane Benyo in 1974, and they divorced in 1996.
Benyo once told mutual friend Stevie Nicks that she had met Petty at "the age of seventeen".
Nicks misheard Benyo's North Florida accent, inspiring the title of her song "Edge of Seventeen".
Petty and Benyo had two daughters: Adria, a director, and Annakim, an artist.
On June 3, 2001, Petty married Dana York, who had a son, Dylan, from an earlier marriage.
His signature gray top hat, however, was destroyed.
Petty struggled with heroin addiction from roughly 1996 through 1999.
He credited the emotional pain from the dissolution of his marriage to Benyo as a major contributing cause.
He later said that "using heroin went against my grain.
I didn't want to be enslaved to anything."
He eventually went to a treatment center, and was able to successfully treat his addiction before the tour for Echo in mid-1999.
Petty spoke in 2014 of the benefits from his practice of Transcendental Meditation.
Petty was found unconscious at his home, not breathing and in cardiac arrest, in the early morning of October 2, 2017.
On January 19, 2018, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner announced that Petty had died accidentally from mixed drug toxicity, a combination of fentanyl, oxycodone, acetylfentanyl and despropionyl fentanyl (all opioids); temazepam and alprazolam (both sedatives); and citalopram (an antidepressant).
He was prescribed pain medication for these problems and informed on the day of his death that his hip injury had worsened.
The statement read, "[it] is our feeling that the pain was simply unbearable and was the cause for his overuse of medication.[..]
We feel confident that this was, as the coroner found, an unfortunate accident."
On September 28, 2018, Petty's wife Dana gave an interview to Billboard saying that Petty put off hip surgery his doctors had recommended for some time.
"He'd had it in mind it was his last tour and he owed it to his long-time crew, from decades some of them, and his fans."
Dana said that Petty was in a good mood the day before his death: "He had those three shows in L.A. Never had he been so proud of himself, so happy, so looking forward to the future – and then he's gone."
Petty owned and used a number of guitars over the years.
From 1976 to 1982, his main instrument was a sunburst 1964 Fender Stratocaster.
He also used a number of Rickenbacker guitars from 1979 onward.
The Rickenbacker 660/12TP was designed by Petty (specifically the neck) and featured his signature from 1991 to 1997.
He also extensively played several Fender Telecasters.
Petty's later amplifier setup featured two Fender Vibro-King 60-watt combos.
Awards and honors
Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Tom Petty
The next month, Petty won the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers' Golden Note Award.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1999, for their contribution to the recording industry.
In December 2001, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which further honored Petty with an exhibit of his items from July 2006 until 2007.
Petty received the Billboard Century Award, the organization's highest honor for creative achievement on December 6, 2005.
Petty was honored as MusiCares Person of the Year in February 2017 for his contributions to music and for his philanthropy.
A week after his death in 2017, a tribute to Petty was painted on Gainesville's Southwest 34th Street Wall.
It reads “Love you always, Gainesville No.
1 Son, Thanks, Tommy”.
In October 2018, on what would have been the singer's 68th birthday, the city of Gainesville renamed the former Northeast Park, a park where a young Petty had often visited, as Tom Petty Park.
Main article: Tom Petty discography
with the Heartbreakers
- Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1976)
- You're Gonna Get It! (1978)
- Damn the Torpedoes (1979)
- Hard Promises (1981)
- Long After Dark (1982)
- Southern Accents (1985)
- Let Me Up (I've Had Enough) (1987)
- Into the Great Wide Open (1991)
- Songs and Music from "She's the One" (1996)
- Echo (1999)
- The Last DJ (2002)
- Mojo (2010)
- Hypnotic Eye (2014)
with the Traveling Wilburys
|1987||Made in Heaven||Stanky|
|1996||She's the One||N/A||Soundtrack|
|1997||The Postman||Bridge City Mayor|
|2013||Sound City||Himself||Music Documentary|
|2019||Echo in the Canyon||Himself||Music Documentary|
|1979–2010||Saturday Night Live!||Himself (musical guest)||8 episodes
— "Buck Henry/Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers" (1979) — "Howard Hesseman/Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers" (1983) — "Steve Martin/Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers" (1989) — "Kirstie Alley/Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers" (1992) — "John Turturro/Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers" (1994) — "Tom Hanks/Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers" (1996) — "John Goodman/Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers" (1999) — "Alec Baldwin/Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers" (2010)
|1987–89||It's Garry Shandling's Show.||Himself||4 episodes
— "It's Gary Shandling's Christmas Show" (1987) — "No Baby, No Show" (1987) — "Vegas: Part 1" (1989) — "Vegas: Part 2" (1989)
|1989||Biography||Himself (interviewee)||Episode: "Johnny Cash: The Man in Black"|
|1998||The Larry Sanders Show||Himself||Episode: "Flip"|
|1999||Behind the Music||Himself||Episode: "Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers"|
|2002||The Simpsons||Himself (voice role)||Episode: "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation"|
|2004–09||King of the Hill||Lucky / Mud Dobber (voice role)||recurring role (28 episodes)|
|2008||Super Bowl XLII||Himself||Halftime show
Credited as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom Petty.