Heartbreak: Rock Legend Tom Petty Dies

(Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

By: Ashwin Mills ’18

Tom Petty, a singer, songwriter, and Rock and Roll legend died, October 2nd in Los Angeles aged 66.

In a statement given by Mr. Petty’s manager, Tony Dimitriades, Mr. Petty suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu, California, early Monday morning and was taken to the U.C.L.A.

Medical Center, where he could not be revived. Surrounded by family, friends, and bandmates, he was pronounced dead at 8:40 p.m.

Tom Petty wrote down-to-earth ballads, performing with his band, the Heartbreakers, from the 1970’s up until his death in October. His songs were staples of the rock genre, with hits such as “Refugee,” “Free Fallin’ ” “Wildflowers,” and “Into the Great Wide Open,” highlighting decades of success by his band.

As a child, Petty did poorly in school and came home to frequent beatings by his father. However, he soon found a calling in music, picking up his first guitar in 1962 and joined his first band, the Sundowners, in the mid 1960’s. Petty then moved on to form the band Mudcrutch,landing him his first record deal and relocating him and his band to Los Angeles. After 5 years of performing, Mudcrutch disbanded, leaving Tom to form the Heartbreakers.

Petty’s music was shaped by the era he grew up in, combining the folk-rock elements of bands such as the Byrds and the Rolling Stones with pithy, hard-headed lyrics similar to Bob Dylan.

Live, Petty and the Heartbreakers relied on their songs and musicianship do the talking versus showmanship. Their shows used scant visuals, focusing instead on close up images of the band performing their respective instruments. The stripped-down and bare performances and recordings of Mr. Petty are only part of what made him so appealing to listeners.

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His death has garnered attention from musicians and listeners alike, most notably Bob Dylan who stated, “It’s shocking, crushing news. I thought the world of Tom. He was a great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him.”

Notre Dame Senior, Thomas Simmons responded to the news, saying, “I was in disbelief when I heard he died. He is one of those types of people that you just think they’ll live forever.” When asked about how important Petty’s music was to him, Simmons responded, “I really appreciate his music because I associate it closely with my childhood. I remember the first song I ever heard was ‘Into the Great Wide Open,” and fell in love with it. Any time I hear a Tom Petty song, it brings me back to that time.”

Ms. Moulton, a Sophomore English teacher at Notre Dame, also associates Petty’s music with her childhood. “One of the songs I really liked was with Stevie Nicks, ‘Stop Dragging My Heart Around.’ It connects me to my parents and is the music I grew up around.

Although Mr. Petty is gone, he is not forgotten. He is survived by his wife; Dana York, a brother, Bruce; two daughters, Adria and AnnaKim; a stepson, Dylan Petty; and a grandchild. His music has impacted millions of people worldwide, and will continue to do so for years to come.


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