Heartbreaker: Tom Petty Dead at 66 After Hours of Clinging to Life

“Free Fallin'” singer suffered a cardiac arrest in his home Sunday night

tom petty
Getty Images

Tom Petty has died at age 66, after hours clinging to life in a Los Angeles hospital.

“On behalf of the Tom Petty family, we are devastated to announce the untimely death of our father, husband, brother, leader and friend Tom Petty. He suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu in the early hours of this morning and was taken to UCLA Medical Center but could not be revived,” Tony Dimitriades, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ longtime manager said in a statement. “He died peacefully at 8:40 p.m. PT surrounded by family, his bandmates and friends.”

The leader singer of the Heartbreakers and a successful solo artist, known for hits like “Free Fallin’” and “Learning to Fly,” was found unconscious in his Malibu home on Sunday night. He was taken to UCLA Santa Monica Hospital and put on life support.

Earlier Monday, it was erroneously reported by several outlets that the singer had died, after CBS News cited a Los Angeles Police Department source. LAPD later said that report was inaccurate, and that “initial information was inadvertantly provided to some media sources.”

Petty wrapped up a summer tour last week with three nights at the Hollywood Bowl. The tour marked the group’s 40th anniversary, and Petty told Rolling Stone it would be their “last trip around the country.”

“I need something to do, or I tend to be a nuisance around the house,” joked the singer, known for his dry, self-deprecating humor.

Born in Gainesville, Florida, Petty dropped out of high school at 17 to join the band Mudcrutch.

He went on to rise to fame as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, with such memorable hits as “American Girl,”  “Breakdown,” and “Listen to Her Heart.”

His songs provided the backdrop to some of the most memorable moments in “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Jerry Maguire.” In “Lambs,” a woman sings along in her car to “American Girl” before serial killer Buffalo Bill abducts her; in “Jerry Maguire,” Tom Cruise’s lead character drives and sings along with “Free Fallin’” during a moment of triumph.

In 2001, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played “I Won’t Back Down” at the America: A Tribute to Heroes benefit concert for victims of the 9/11 attacks.

Petty released three solo albums and 13 albums with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. He also took part in the 1980s supergroup the Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne.

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.