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Remembering rock ‘n’ roll icon Tom Petty

Tom Petty, beloved rock ‘n’ roll icon, died at age 66 on Monday, Oct. 2. According to a statement released by Tony Dimitriades, longtime manager of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, he suffered a cardiac arrest at his Malibu home early Monday morning.

“He died peacefully at 8:40 PM PST surrounded by his family, his bandmates, and friends,” Dimitriades said.

However, a report from CBS News prematurely announced Petty’s death at 4 p.m. The news-source cited the Los Angeles Police Department, who later Monday released a statement saying that they “had no information about the passing of singer Tom Petty.”

Later that evening, CBS News retracted their claim and cited a TMZ report that stated Petty was “clinging to life.”

It was not until 11:36 p.m. that Dimitriades released the statement on behalf of the Tom Petty family.

Petty’s career with the Heartbreakers began in 1976 when they released their debut album— "Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.” Initially, the album was not successful in the United States. After the band toured in the UK, however, the album topped UK charts and prompted a reissue of the album’s lead single “The Breakdown” in the US.

This resurgence led The Heartbreakers to release two more albums throughout the late 70s, each successful within the US charts. During the 80s and 90s, Petty continued to produce hit songs with The Heartbreakers.

In 1989, Petty released his first solo album— "Full Moon Fever”—which included one of his all-time biggest hits, “Free Fallin.’”

Dr. Dennis McDaniel, associate professor of English, teaches an English elective course at Saint Vincent called, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Criticism.”

McDaniel commented on Petty’s career, legacy and his ability to produce hit songs.

“He wrote pop hooks that were neither trite nor cloying and that remain irresistible,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel says Petty’s songs such as, “Refugee,” “Don’t Do Me Like That” and “The Waiting,” are just as catchy and powerful today as they were 30 years ago.

While Petty’s songs may have been catchy, as a music critic, McDaniel states that Petty’s lyrics are “nothing special.”

McDaniel says that the shallowness of Petty’s lyrics may be the reason that his music has not received the adulation accorded to other songwriters of his time.

Nonetheless, McDaniel notices elements of Petty’s music that make it special.

“Petty’s lyrics are inescapably connected to his melodies and their arrangement, his vocal delivery, and his band—this combination makes his songs special,” McDaniel said.

For three decades, Petty’s music captured the hearts of millions of fans worldwide. In 2014, after years of producing hit songs with The Heartbreakers and as a solo artist, Petty rounded up the Heartbreakers to release one final album— “Hypnotic Eye.”

The success of the album inspired Petty and the Heartbreakers to announce a 40th Anniversary tour in the US.

On Sept. 25, a week before Petty died, he performed on tour at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California.

In regard to the late rock ‘n’ roll icon’s legacy, McDaniel said, “Petty will endure in those great songs, and in albums like “Damn the Torpedoes”, in which composition, musicianship, and production jelled beautifully.”

Photo: Paul R. Giunta/Getty

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