Iconic rocker Tom Petty has been hospitalized in Los Angeles, officials confirmed Monday.
Petty, 66, gained worldwide fame as the lead singer and guitarist of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, with whom he was celebrating four decades together during their 40th anniversary tour that wrapped up last week at the Hollywood Bowl. He’s best known for songs like “Free Fallin’,” “American Girl,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” and “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” with many memorable music videos to accompany.
A Los Angeles County sheriff’s official told BuzzFeed News they responded to Petty’s Malibu home at 10:50 p.m. Sunday after receiving a 911 call. Petty was transported to UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, but the official could not confirm the singer’s condition or reports that he was clinging to life.
A representative for the hospital also declined to comment, citing patient privacy laws. And representatives for Petty did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Reports of the singer’s death earlier on Monday also added to the confusion. Those reports cited police but were based on “initial information” that was “inadvertently provided to some media sources,” the LAPD tweeted Monday.
“However, the LAPD has no investigative role in this matter,” the department added. “We apologize for any inconvenience in this reporting.”
Born Oct. 20, 1950, Petty told NPR’s Fresh Air in an interview in 2006 that he knew he wanted to be a musician after seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show when he was young. “It was something I identified with. I had never been hugely into sports….I had been a big fan of Elvis. But I really saw in the Beatles that here’s something I could do,” the Florida native and the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer said. “I knew I could do it.”
Petty’s musical aspirations were not just fueled with this knowing, but as an escape. From his childhood to his final days, Petty combined powerhouse melodies with sturdy rock and hooks for days, from his choruses to deft guitar solos and riffs.
“I did go through a lot of my life with a short fuse where I could erupt into a serious rage. … I think that was a product of my childhood, when I had some serious abuse,” he told Uncut of growing up with his father in Gainesville. “I started to learn and retrace what had happened to me and why I was that way. It became quite clear to me why. And once you know why something is happening, you know how to fix it.”
The songwriter would eventually go on to become one of the best-selling rock and touring acts of all time, releasing 10 studio albums with the Heartbreakers, and three more on his own.
The only Heartbreakers album to ever reach No. 1 on The Billboard 200 chart was the band’s last, Hypnotic Eye, released July 2014.
Petty was also part of the Grammy Award-winning supergroup The Traveling Wilburys, with George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Lynne. They released two albums, one after Orbison died in 1990, though they never toured together.
The Heartbreakers’ 40th anniversary tour was scheduled for more than 60 stops this year; they were slated to take the stage in New York for two additional dates in November.
In December, he told Rolling Stone that this stint might be the last “big” outing for him and his band, which includes guitarist Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench on keys, bassist Ron Blair, multi-instrumentalist Scott Thurston, and drummer Steve Ferrone.
Campbell, Tench, and Petty started performing together in their first band, Mudcrutch, when Petty was just 17. Mudcrutch eventually reunited and released a self-titled album in 2008 and a second set, 2, in 2016.
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