Tom Petty, the rocker who wrote and performed some of the greatest hits of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s as the front man for the Heartbreakers, was in the hospital Monday with a bleak prognosis after suffering a heart attack.
The “Free Fallin’” singer, 66, was found unconscious in his Malibu home Sunday night by his wife, Dana York.
She called 911 and told dispatchers her husband wasn’t breathing, according to TMZ, which obtained audio of the the urgent plea. First responders rushed Petty to UCLA Santa Monica Hospital, where he was put on life support.
Doctors found no brain activity for Petty, according to multiple reports.
The family had him taken off the machines and asked doctors to impose a do-not-resuscitate order, TMZ said.
Petty was “clinging to life” Monday, and the family brought in a chaplain to administer last rites before the machines were turned off, the gossip site said.
CBS News at one point on Monday reported the Hall of Fame musician died Monday, citing a source within the Los Angeles Police Department.
But that claim was quickly disputed by the LAPD, which said it was not investigating Petty’s medical crisis.
The celebrated singer-songwriter-guitarist from Florida has notched an impressive string of hits over his decades-long career, despite well-publicized bouts with drugs and depression.
His singular talent garnered him 18 Grammy nominations and three wins. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
Petty was on tour with the Heartbreakers all summer for the band’s 40th anniversary, and wrapped up the season with a concert last Monday at the Hollywood Bowl.
He told Rolling Stone magazine that it was going to be his “last trip around the country,” although not necessarily the end of his musical career.
“I need something to do, or I tend to be a nuisance around the house,” Petty told the magazine.
Born in Gainesville, Fla., Petty took refuge in music to escape an abusive father — a charming, charismatic man who turned violent when he was drunk, as Petty described him.
He quit high school to join a Florida band called Mudcrutch. The group broke up not long after moving to Los Angeles, but that opened the door for Petty to form the Heartbreakers, as lead singer and guitarist.
The band found fame in 1977 with the single “Breakdown,” which broke the Top 40 off their self-titled debut album.
That album also included the song “American Girl.” Though the track never cracked the charts, it cemented itself as an American classic, ranked 76th on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.”
The band’s profile continued to rise with 1979’s “Damn the Torpedoes,” and included popular singles “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “Refugee.”
Throughout the ’80s and into the ’90s, Petty and his Heartbreakers churned out albums and scored multiple hit singles, including 1985’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” The song was a perfect showcase for Petty’s plaintive, nasal voice, but it was the “Alice in Wonderland” video that really made it stand out — and gave Petty his signature “Mad Hatter” headgear.
The band’s most recent effort, 2014’s “Hypnotic Eye,” scored the rockers their first No. 1 album.
Petty flirted with a solo career through the years, releasing three albums on his own: “Full Moon Fever” (1989), “Wildflowers” (1994) and “Highway Companion” (2006).
He also found time to help meld together a supergroup in the Traveling Wilburys. The legendary lineup included Petty, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison, all assuming different aliases sharing the last name “Wilbury.”
The band released two albums to massive critical acclaim and commercial success.
“I run a pretty fast-paced life and I always like having a project to do,” Petty said in 2014. “I hate to be bored. That is the greatest sin I can commit. I’m sure it irritates a lot of people around me, but I like to keep moving.”