Pop culture giant and rock music icon Tom Petty is gone. The groundbreaking artist died in Los Angeles on October 2, 2017 of cardiac arrest at the age of 66. Fans across the world reacted with shock at the sudden loss of a classic American superstar who entertained generations and eclipsed boundaries with his signature style, playful and soul-driven song lyrics, and commanding stage presence.
From his hit-packed years with The Heartbreakers to a wildly successful solo career, Petty sold nearly 100 million albums across decades, becoming the author of an American soundtrack that, according to USA Today, served as THE sing-along driving “mix tape” that legends are made of.
Petty credited a chance meeting with Elvis Presley as a child and watching The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show as events that played a role in sparking his early interest in making music. His career came full-circle with the release of a reunion album with The Heartbreakers in 2014, which debuted in the number one slot on the Billboard 200 chart.
Known for his devilish grin and unique style and attitude, Petty was a natural actor, and made some of the most memorable music videos of the MTV generation, solidifying his place as one of rock’s most lovable bad boys. He appeared in numerous films and television shows, often portraying himself.
Petty’s music, however, was the key ingredient in his one-of-a-kind, meteoric rise to pop culture greatness. Songs like “American Girl” and “I Won’t Back Down” became larger-than-life themes of modern Americana and emotional anthems like “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” and “Free Fallin'” captured the hearts of true-grit fans across the globe. As a member of the popular Traveling Wilburys in the late 1980s, he joined other pop and rock greats and further secured his place in the hearts of fans.
Petty is survived by his wife Dana Epperson, two daughters, a stepson, and other family members. Funeral plans have not yet been announced.