After Premature Reporting on Tom Petty’s Death, Sources are Backtracking; Fate Still Unknown

Posted October 2, 2017 by J Matthew Cobb in News

Death of “Free Fallin'” singer prematurely announced, causes media sources to backtrack and to modify headlines

Famed rock singer Tom Petty, 66, was announced dead by news sources by Monday afternoon after going into cardiac arrest. The prolific singer/songwriter was rushed to the UCLA Santa Monica Hospital after being discovered to be unconscious and not breathing at his Malibu home.

Later in the afternoon, the Los Angeles Police Department could not confirm Petty’s death, but TMZ indicated that he was indeed unconscious, had no brain activity and was placed on life support. According to TMZ’s reporting, the family along with medical staff has been authorized to make a decision to pull the plug on Petty, with a “do not resuscitate order” in place. This decision would ultimately mean that the singer/songwriter will not make it throughout the evening.

This story is still developing, although news columns including CBS and music resources like Rolling Stone have already published premature obituaries, confirming our worst fears. Some of their headlines, including one made by Variety, have been updated with “sources” in the byline. And a more recent update by Entertainment Weekly states that the LAPD is “walking back” their original reporting.”

Perry had just finished wrapping up a huge tour for the band’s 40th anniversary that culminated with a full performance at the Hollywood Bowl last Monday.

One of the last great torchbearers of rock & roll fundamentals, Perry – a Floridian with a sweet balance of Rolling Stones grit and ‘60’s rock folk, rose to acclaim as the frontman of the Heartbreakers in the late 1970’s. “Breakdown,” a song with a Rolling Stones hue, defined the heartbeat of Perry’s style on the band’s self-titled debut LP. “American Girl,” a song that failed to chart, was also a critical moment on the debut disc and has grown into a rock and roll classic, even earning a coveted spot on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.”

Petty’s success seemed to continue well into the new decade. On 1979’s Damn the Torpedoes, a disc now considered one of Perry’s greatest career milestones, you can hear now-iconic works like “Refugee,” “Even the Losers,” “Here Comes My Girl” and the Top Ten hit “Don’t Do Me Like That.” As the ‘80’s progressed and the styles of rock teetered into a newer terrain of pop and grunge, Petty stayed the course, even flirting with country and southern rock at times. Southern Accents, another golden moment, saw Petty expanded his horizons while staying true to his conventions. Towards the end of the decade, Petty joined The Traveling Wilburys, a supergroup that combined Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynne. It was during that era that Lynne began working with Petty on original material for Perry’s 1989’s Full Moon Fever, which kicked off with his best single to date, “Free Fallin’.” The single soared to number seven pop and number one on the rock charts, cementing itself as a crowd staple and a boundless cover song (done by Stevie Nicks, Mya and sampled in works by De La Soul and Chamillionaire). The same disc also featured “I Won’t Back Down” (now a post-9/11 anthem) and the brisk heartland rock jam”Runnin’ Down a Dream.”

Petty continued to record both on his own as a solo artist and with the Heartbreakers, even leading up to their most recent album release, 2014’s Hypnotic Eye, a Number One record on the Billboard 200 that landed on several “best of” year roundup lists, including HiFi Magazine.

Throughout his musical journey, Petty won three Grammys and racked up a hefty eighteen nominations. He was also inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

As previously noted, this story is still developing.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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