Tom Petty formed The Heartbreakers in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s. Led by Mike Campbell’s Byrdsian guitar and driving, Stonesy rhythms, the group brought a dash of new wave into the heartland rock of the US.
Petty teamed up with British producer Denny Cordell for the group’s eponymous debut album (1976), which went Top 20 in Britain and sold well in Germany and France before the US took any notice.
The band added their new wave energy to songs that (with two exceptions) were written in an afternoon and recorded the same evening.
Taking equally from The Byrds and Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers would continue with what Petty called “the big jangle” until 1985’s Southern Accents, when he let Eurythmics‘ Dave Stewart tamper with the formula.
Petty was found unconscious at his home, not breathing and in cardiac arrest, early in the morning of Monday 2 October 2017.
He was resuscitated and taken to the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California, where he died at 8:40 pm. The Medical Examiner announced that Petty had died accidentally from mixed drug toxicity – a combination of fentanyl, oxycodone, acetylfentanyl and despropionyl fentanyl (all opioids); temazepam and alprazolam (both sedatives); and citalopram (an antidepressant).
He had suffered from multiple medical problems, including emphysema, knee difficulties and a fractured hip, and had been prescribed pain medication for these problems. He was 66.