Thomas Earl Petty, born on October 20, 1950, was an American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, and actor. He learned to play the guitar at a young age and dropped out of school at 17 years old. He began his career in earnest with a group called Mudcrutch. He was the lead vocalist and guitarist of ‘Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers,’ formed in 1976. He won three Grammy awards throughout his career. He was a member of the late 1980s supergroup ‘The Traveling Wilburys’ and had success as a solo artist. It’s his birthday today, and we can’t forget to honor him.
Thomas Early Petty was born in Gainesville, Florida to Earl Petty and Kitty Petty. He had one younger brother, Bruce. He moved to Los Angeles and formed the original lineup of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with Benmont Tench, Ron Blair, and Stan Lynch. In November 1976, they released their self-titled album, which became a hit in the U.K. and, later, the U.S. “Damn the Torpedoes,” their third album, was one of the band’s most successful. It received a 2x platinum rating in the U.S. and a 3x platinum rating in Canada.
Petty made his solo debut in 1989 with the album “Full Moon Fever.” It was a commercial success in the U.S., peaking at number three on the Billboard 200. He did not leave his band despite his solo triumph. He and his band issued four more albums over the next two decades. In 2006, Petty released a solo album titled “Highway Companion.” It reached number four on the Billboard 200 chart and received positive reviews from critics. With a role in the 1978 film “FM,” Petty made his acting debut. He appeared in multiple episodes of “It’s Garry Sandlings’ Show,” an American sitcom. He also had a vocal role in one episode of the iconic animated sitcom “The Simpsons,” as well as in a few episodes of another popular sitcom, “King of the Hill.”
From 1974 to 1996, Petty was married to Jane Benyo and they had two daughters. Petty revealed that his marriage had been terminated due to his heroin addiction. He later married Dana York in 2001 and he became a stepfather to York’s son. On October 2, 2017, he died as a result of a major cardiac arrest induced by an overdose of prescription medicines. On October 16, 2017, he was laid to rest at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.
Benmont Tench, Mike Campbell, Ron Blair, and Stan Lynch, all from Gainesville, join Petty to create "Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers."
The band’s self-titled album became a hit in the U.K. and, eventually, the U.S.
Petty made his solo debut in 1989 with the album titled “Full Moon Fever.”
Petty wins his first Grammy award with his group, the Traveling Wilburys, for the album ”Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.” as Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.
Petty receives the Billboard Century Award.
"Mojo" is the final studio album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Why We Love Tom Petty
He is charitable
Petty received the Midnight Mission's Golden Heart Award in 2011 and has hosted concerts to aid the organization. The Golden Heart Award is given to people who have shown compassion for the less fortunate in the Los Angeles community and have made a commitment to assist others in changing their lives.
He impacted the world
Petty intrigued and inspired a generation of fans and musicians throughout his long career. His distinctive voice, rebellious spirit, and loving heart made him a true rock and roll hero, whose impact on the music industry as a songwriter, singer, and philanthropist cannot be overestimated. He will be missed a lot.
His music is inspirational
Petty had an unusual affinity with words as a brilliant songwriter, allowing him to express powerful themes through music. His lyrics continue to resonate with both new and old listeners, frequently imparting vital life lessons in the process.
5 Surprising Facts
He didn't back down from a cold
He told "Mojo Magazine" that he had a nasty cold when recording the song "I Won't Back Down" with George Harrison.
He didn't like his 1999 album “Echo”
Petty was going through a difficult time when he recorded "Echo," and he later admitted that he wasn't a fan of the album.
Meeting Elvis changed his life
After meeting Elvis Presley at a young age, he became a bit obsessed with him and listened to all of his records; that was when rock 'n’ roll became a part of his life.
He supported legalizing marijuana
"Don't Pull Me Over," a protest song in support of legalized marijuana, appeared on his 2010 album "Mojo."
He wasn't a fan of American Idol
The songwriter did not hold televised singing competitions in high regard.
Tom Petty FAQs
What was Tom Petty's biggest hit?
His biggest hit ever is “Free Fallin’.”
What was Tom Petty's last song before he died?
He sang “American Girl” as his last song before he died.
Who taught Tom Petty guitar?
Tom Petty taught Felder to play the guitar.
Tom Petty’s birthday dates