Legendary American rocker Tom Petty and his band the Heartbreakers ended its 40th anniversary tour show, as it often did, with the 1976 fan-favorite "American Girl" in Hollywood. That would turn out to be Petty's final show; he died on Oct. 2 at age 66, as confirmed by his manager.
Paramedics were called to Petty's Malibu home late on Sunday night, TMZ reported, where he was found unresponsive before being taken to UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica. On Monday afternoon, the Gainesville, Fla.-born singer was taken off life support, following the instructions of a Do Not Resuscitate order.
Petty's recently ended tour began in April and included his final North Texas concert at Dallas' American Airlines Center on April 22. Dallas Morning News writer Brentney Hamilton wrote that Petty is "an incredible front man; he's dramatic and silly without ever seeming disingenuous or that he's trying too hard. He's a serious musician who doesn't seem to take himself too seriously."
In the mid-'70s, Petty and his pre-fame group Mudcrutch, which consisted of future Heartbreaker band mates Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell, moved from Florida to Los Angeles with the hope of securing a major record deal. The roots rock-oriented sound of the band served as a precursor for much of the signature style Petty would showcase moving forward.
With a sound that can best described as simply "American," Petty's signature storytelling, melodic pop sensibility and ability to soulfully blend the strengths of his collaborators provided a sonic stamp that has come to be commonly referred to as "Petty-esque" by generations of music writers, rock aficionados and devoted admirers.
Though his new band's 1976 debut, self-titled album Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, featured the now-classic staples "Breakdown" and the aforementioned concert-closing "American Girl," the group's primary mainstream breakthrough came in 1979 with the release of Damn the Torpedoes, an album that Rolling Stone listed as one of its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Subsequent albums with the Heartbreakers, including Hard Promises in 1981 and Southern Accents in 1985, would also be commercial successes, featuring songs such as "The Waiting" and "Don't Come Around Here No More" that would live on as mandatory additions to classic rock radio playlists.
With the 1989 LP Full Moon Fever, Petty's star shot to greater heights on the strength of a string of rock songs whose videos found their way onto regular MTV rotation. Popular singles "Runnin' Down a Dream" and "I Won't Back Down" made waves for Petty, who had the help of some of the Heartbreakers for that album, though it was billed a solo effort. But it was the jangly, eminently catchy "Free Fallin'," with its ocean-sized sing-along chorus, that would cement itself as arguably Petty's all-time most popular tune.
Although he continued releasing well-received albums, including 2010's blues-grooving Mojo, up until 2014's Billboard No. 1 selling Hypnotic Eye, the years between 1988 and 1992 would prove to be as critically and commercially successful a time as Petty would ever enjoy.
As a member of the legendary roots-rock supergroup The Traveling Wilburys, Petty teamed up with Electric Light Orchestra's Jeff Lynne, "Pretty Woman" singer Roy Orbison, folk icon Bob Dylan and the quietest member of the Beatles, George Harrison, for two splendid, platinum-selling albums, The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 and The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 3. In 1991, his hit-packed Into the Great Wide Open album added to Petty's growing collection of platinum plaques.
More recently, Petty made quite the impression with hilariously candid interviews in the HBO docu-series The Defiant Ones. Originally airing earlier in 2017, the series was based on the careers of famed record executive Jimmy Iovine and iconic rapper Dr. Dre. Iovine, a longtime friend and collaborator of Petty's, also dated Stevie Nicks, Petty's recent ex-girlfriend at the time. Many of Petty's comments in the show are delivered with a sarcastic chuckle, giving the show a touch of sour to counterbalance the oft-overwhelming sweetness of adoration heaped upon Iovine by Bono and Bruce Springsteen.
Petty is survived by his two daughters, Adria and Kimberly, and his wife Dana.