Rock legend Tom Petty dies at 66

Tom Petty accepts the Founders Award on stage at the 31st Annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards at the Loews Hollywood Hotel on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty accepts the Founders Award on stage at the 31st Annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards at the Loews Hollywood Hotel on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Chris Pizzello)
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers performs at the 2014 Lockn' Festival on Saturday, September 6, 2014, in Arrington, Virginia. (Photo by John Davisson/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers performs at the 2014 Lockn’ Festival on Saturday, September 6, 2014, in Arrington, Virginia. (Photo by John Davisson/Invision/AP) (John Davisson/Invision/AP/John Davisson)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performs at The Hangout Festival on Saturday May 18, 2013 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.(Photo by John Davisson/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performs at The Hangout Festival on Saturday May 18, 2013 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.(Photo by John Davisson/Invision/AP) (John Davisson/Invision/AP/John Davisson)
Tom Petty arrives at the 31st Annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards at the Loews Hollywood Hotel on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty arrives at the 31st Annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards at the Loews Hollywood Hotel on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP) (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/Richard Shotwell)
Tom Petty of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers seen at KAABOO 2017 at the Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in San Diego, Calif. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers seen at KAABOO 2017 at the Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in San Diego, Calif. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP) (Amy Harris/Invision/AP/Amy Harris)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performs at The Hangout Festival on Saturday May 18, 2013 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.(Photo by John Davisson/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performs at The Hangout Festival on Saturday May 18, 2013 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.(Photo by John Davisson/Invision/AP) (John Davisson/Invision/AP/John Davisson)
Tom Petty of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers seen at KAABOO 2017 at the Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in San Diego, Calif. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers seen at KAABOO 2017 at the Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in San Diego, Calif. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP) (Amy Harris/Invision/AP/Amy Harris)
Tom Petty of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performs in concert during their "40th Anniversary Tour" at The Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, July 1, 2017, in Philadelphia. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performs in concert during their “40th Anniversary Tour” at The Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, July 1, 2017, in Philadelphia. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP) (Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP/Owen Sweeney)
** FILE ** Tom Petty performs at Glendale Arena in Glendale, Ariz., in this Oct. 4, 2006, file photo.  (AP Photo/Matt York, file)
** FILE ** Tom Petty performs at Glendale Arena in Glendale, Ariz., in this Oct. 4, 2006, file photo. (AP Photo/Matt York, file) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/MATT YORK)
Tom Petty puts his band The Heartbreakers through their paces during their concert Friday, June 18, 1999 at Pine Knob Music Theater in Clarkston, Mich.  Petty and the Heartbreakers launched their current U.S. tour earlier this week in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Warner)
Tom Petty puts his band The Heartbreakers through their paces during their concert Friday, June 18, 1999 at Pine Knob Music Theater in Clarkston, Mich. Petty and the Heartbreakers launched their current U.S. tour earlier this week in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Warner) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/PAUL WARNER)
Tom Petty puts his band The Heartbreakers through their paces during a concert Friday, June 18, 1999, at Pine Knob Music Theater in Clarkston, Mich.  Petty and The Heartbreakers launched their  current U.S. tour earlier this week in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Warner)
Tom Petty puts his band The Heartbreakers through their paces during a concert Friday, June 18, 1999, at Pine Knob Music Theater in Clarkston, Mich. Petty and The Heartbreakers launched their current U.S. tour earlier this week in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Warner) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/PAUL WARNER)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers rock band members, left to right: Mike Campbell, Howie Epstein, Tom Petty and Benmont Tench pose for a photo, as they are honored Wednesday, April 28, 1999, with the 2,133rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles.  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have sold over 30 million albums, won Grammys and MTV awards and produced over 25 classic hits. Their latest album " Echo" which was released on April 13th debuted this week at number 10 on the Billboard album chart. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers rock band members, left to right: Mike Campbell, Howie Epstein, Tom Petty and Benmont Tench pose for a photo, as they are honored Wednesday, April 28, 1999, with the 2,133rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have sold over 30 million albums, won Grammys and MTV awards and produced over 25 classic hits. Their latest album ” Echo” which was released on April 13th debuted this week at number 10 on the Billboard album chart. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/DAMIAN DOVARGANES)
Rock singer Tom Petty and his wife Dana poses at the world premiere of the documentary film "Runnin' Down a Dream: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers," at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Rock singer Tom Petty and his wife Dana poses at the world premiere of the documentary film “Runnin’ Down a Dream: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers,” at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello) (AP/Chris Pizzello)
Tom Petty performs during the Vegoose music festival at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Tom Petty performs during the Vegoose music festival at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/ISAAC BREKKEN)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform on the main stage at the AmsterJam concert Saturday, Aug. 19, 2006 on Randall's Island in New York.  (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform on the main stage at the AmsterJam concert Saturday, Aug. 19, 2006 on Randall’s Island in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow) (AP/JASON DECROW)
Tom Petty, third left, stands with his band the Heartbreakers after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Monday, March 18, 2002, at New York's Waldorf Astoria. (AP Photo/Ed Betz)
Tom Petty, third left, stands with his band the Heartbreakers after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Monday, March 18, 2002, at New York’s Waldorf Astoria. (AP Photo/Ed Betz) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/ED BETZ)
Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, left, and Tom Petty perform together at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., Tuesday, June 27, 2006. (AP Photo/Bill Kelley)
Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, left, and Tom Petty perform together at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., Tuesday, June 27, 2006. (AP Photo/Bill Kelley) (AP/BILL KELLEY)
Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty
Stevie Nicks, left, and honoree Tom Petty perform “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” at the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., on Friday, June 16, 2006. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., on Friday, June 16, 2006. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/MARK HUMPHREY)
Tom Petty performs with The Heartbreakers during their headlining set on Day 1 of the inaugural 2017 Arroyo Seco Music Festival on Saturday, June 24, 2017, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty performs with The Heartbreakers during their headlining set on Day 1 of the inaugural 2017 Arroyo Seco Music Festival on Saturday, June 24, 2017, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Chris Pizzello)
Don Henley performs "Free Fallin" at the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute honoring Tom Petty at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Don Henley performs “Free Fallin” at the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute honoring Tom Petty at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Chris Pizzello)
Tom Petty of Tom  Petty and The Heartbreakers performs at Madison Square Garden Tuesday, June 20, 2006 in New York.  (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Tom Petty of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers performs at Madison Square Garden Tuesday, June 20, 2006 in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/JASON DECROW)
Tom Petty
Honoree Tom Petty performs at the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty, center, and The Heartbreakers perform in front of a packed house at Madison Square Garden Tuesday, June 20, 2006, in New York.  Tom Petty's third solo album 'Highway Companion' is scheduled to be released on July 25, 2006.  (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Tom Petty, center, and The Heartbreakers perform in front of a packed house at Madison Square Garden Tuesday, June 20, 2006, in New York. Tom Petty’s third solo album ‘Highway Companion’ is scheduled to be released on July 25, 2006. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/JASON DECROW)
Tom Petty of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers performs at Madison Square Garden Tuesday, June 20, 2006 in New York.  (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Tom Petty of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers performs at Madison Square Garden Tuesday, June 20, 2006 in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/JASON DECROW)
Tom Petty makes a peace sign after winning the award for Best Male Video during the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York Thursday, September 7, 1995.  (AP Photo/ Bebeto Matthews)
Tom Petty makes a peace sign after winning the award for Best Male Video during the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York Thursday, September 7, 1995. (AP Photo/ Bebeto Matthews) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/BEBETO MATTHEWS)
Rock star Tom Petty signs autographs after his band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, were honored Wednesday, April 28, 1999, with the 2,133rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers has sold over 30 million albums, won Grammys and MTV awards and produced over 25 classic hits. Their latest album "Echo" which was released on April 13th debuted this week at number 10 on the Billboard album chart. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Rock star Tom Petty signs autographs after his band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, were honored Wednesday, April 28, 1999, with the 2,133rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers has sold over 30 million albums, won Grammys and MTV awards and produced over 25 classic hits. Their latest album “Echo” which was released on April 13th debuted this week at number 10 on the Billboard album chart. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/DAMIAN DOVARGANES)
Tom Petty performs with the Heartbreakers during their headlining set on day one of the inaugural 2017 Arroyo Seco Music Festival on Saturday, June 24, 2017, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty performs with the Heartbreakers during their headlining set on day one of the inaugural 2017 Arroyo Seco Music Festival on Saturday, June 24, 2017, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Chris Pizzello)
George Harrison, right, is embraced by fellow rock lengend Tom Petty after Petty presented the first century Award for distinguished creative achievement to Harrison at the Billboard Music Awards Wednesday, Dec. 9, 1992 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
George Harrison, right, is embraced by fellow rock lengend Tom Petty after Petty presented the first century Award for distinguished creative achievement to Harrison at the Billboard Music Awards Wednesday, Dec. 9, 1992 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (AP/REED SAXON)
Jeff Lynne, from left, Tom Petty and Dhani Harrison perform "I Won't Back Down" at the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute honoring Tom Petty at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Jeff Lynne, from left, Tom Petty and Dhani Harrison perform “I Won’t Back Down” at the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute honoring Tom Petty at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Chris Pizzello)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers kick off the first of 10 shows with "I Won't Back Down," Friday, Jan. 10, 1997, at the Fillmore in San Francisco.  (AP Photo/Robin Weiner)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers kick off the first of 10 shows with “I Won’t Back Down,” Friday, Jan. 10, 1997, at the Fillmore in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Robin Weiner) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/ROBIN WEINER)
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Tom Petty accepts the Founders Award on stage at the 31st Annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards at the Loews Hollywood Hotel on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers performs at the 2014 Lockn' Festival on Saturday, September 6, 2014, in Arrington, Virginia. (Photo by John Davisson/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performs at The Hangout Festival on Saturday May 18, 2013 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.(Photo by John Davisson/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty arrives at the 31st Annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards at the Loews Hollywood Hotel on Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers seen at KAABOO 2017 at the Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in San Diego, Calif. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performs at The Hangout Festival on Saturday May 18, 2013 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.(Photo by John Davisson/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers seen at KAABOO 2017 at the Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, in San Diego, Calif. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performs in concert during their "40th Anniversary Tour" at The Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, July 1, 2017, in Philadelphia. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)
** FILE ** Tom Petty performs at Glendale Arena in Glendale, Ariz., in this Oct. 4, 2006, file photo.  (AP Photo/Matt York, file)
Tom Petty puts his band The Heartbreakers through their paces during their concert Friday, June 18, 1999 at Pine Knob Music Theater in Clarkston, Mich.  Petty and the Heartbreakers launched their current U.S. tour earlier this week in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Warner)
Tom Petty puts his band The Heartbreakers through their paces during a concert Friday, June 18, 1999, at Pine Knob Music Theater in Clarkston, Mich.  Petty and The Heartbreakers launched their  current U.S. tour earlier this week in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Warner)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers rock band members, left to right: Mike Campbell, Howie Epstein, Tom Petty and Benmont Tench pose for a photo, as they are honored Wednesday, April 28, 1999, with the 2,133rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles.  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have sold over 30 million albums, won Grammys and MTV awards and produced over 25 classic hits. Their latest album " Echo" which was released on April 13th debuted this week at number 10 on the Billboard album chart. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Rock singer Tom Petty and his wife Dana poses at the world premiere of the documentary film "Runnin' Down a Dream: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers," at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Tom Petty performs during the Vegoose music festival at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform on the main stage at the AmsterJam concert Saturday, Aug. 19, 2006 on Randall's Island in New York.  (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Tom Petty, third left, stands with his band the Heartbreakers after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Monday, March 18, 2002, at New York's Waldorf Astoria. (AP Photo/Ed Betz)
Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, left, and Tom Petty perform together at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., Tuesday, June 27, 2006. (AP Photo/Bill Kelley)
Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., on Friday, June 16, 2006. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Tom Petty performs with The Heartbreakers during their headlining set on Day 1 of the inaugural 2017 Arroyo Seco Music Festival on Saturday, June 24, 2017, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Don Henley performs "Free Fallin" at the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute honoring Tom Petty at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty of Tom  Petty and The Heartbreakers performs at Madison Square Garden Tuesday, June 20, 2006 in New York.  (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Tom Petty
Tom Petty, center, and The Heartbreakers perform in front of a packed house at Madison Square Garden Tuesday, June 20, 2006, in New York.  Tom Petty's third solo album 'Highway Companion' is scheduled to be released on July 25, 2006.  (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Tom Petty of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers performs at Madison Square Garden Tuesday, June 20, 2006 in New York.  (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Tom Petty makes a peace sign after winning the award for Best Male Video during the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York Thursday, September 7, 1995.  (AP Photo/ Bebeto Matthews)
Rock star Tom Petty signs autographs after his band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, were honored Wednesday, April 28, 1999, with the 2,133rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers has sold over 30 million albums, won Grammys and MTV awards and produced over 25 classic hits. Their latest album "Echo" which was released on April 13th debuted this week at number 10 on the Billboard album chart. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Tom Petty performs with the Heartbreakers during their headlining set on day one of the inaugural 2017 Arroyo Seco Music Festival on Saturday, June 24, 2017, in Pasadena, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
George Harrison, right, is embraced by fellow rock lengend Tom Petty after Petty presented the first century Award for distinguished creative achievement to Harrison at the Billboard Music Awards Wednesday, Dec. 9, 1992 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Jeff Lynne, from left, Tom Petty and Dhani Harrison perform "I Won't Back Down" at the MusiCares Person of the Year tribute honoring Tom Petty at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers kick off the first of 10 shows with "I Won't Back Down," Friday, Jan. 10, 1997, at the Fillmore in San Francisco.  (AP Photo/Robin Weiner)
WTOP's Jason Fraley remembers Tom Petty (WTOP Staff)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tom Petty, an old-fashioned rock superstar and everyman who drew upon the Byrds, the Beatles and other bands he worshipped as a boy and produced new classics such as “Free Fallin,’ “Refugee” and “American Girl,” has died.

Petty passed away Monday night at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles after he suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu, California, spokeswoman Carla Sacks said. He was 66.

Petty and his longtime band the Heartbreakers had recently completed a 40th anniversary tour, wrapping with three sold-out shows at the Hollywood Bowl.

“I’m thinking it may be the last trip around the country,” Petty told Rolling Stone last year. “We’re all on the backside of our 60s. I have a granddaughter now I’d like to see as much as I can. I don’t want to spend my life on the road. This tour will take me away for four months. With a little kid, that’s a lot of time.”

Usually backed by the Heartbreakers, Petty broke through in the 1970s and went on to sell more than 80 million records. The Gainesville, Florida, native with the shaggy blond hair and gaunt features was loved for his melodic hard rock, nasally vocals and down-to-earth style. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted Petty and the Heartbreakers in 2002, praised them as “durable, resourceful, hard-working, likeable and unpretentious.”

Petty’s albums included “Damn the Torpedoes,” ”Hard Promises” and “Full Moon Fever,” although his first No. 1 did not come until 2014 and “Hypnotic Eye.” As a songwriter, he focused often on daily struggles and the will to overcome them, most memorably on “Refugee,” ”Even the Losers” and “I Won’t Back Down.”

“It’s sort of the classic theme of a lot of the work I’ve done,” he told The Associated Press in 1989. “I think faith is very important just to get through life. I think it’s really important that you believe in yourself, first of all. It’s a very hard to thing to come by. But when you get it, it’s invaluable.”

Petty didn’t just sing about not backing down, he lived it. In 1979, he was enraged when his record label was sold and his contract transferred. Stating that he would not be “bought and sold like a piece of meat,” he self-financed what became “Damn the Torpedoes” and declared bankruptcy rather than allowing his label, MCA, to release it. He eventually reached a new deal with MCA, for better terms. In the early 1980s, he was again at war with MCA, this time over the label’s plans to charge extra money, a dollar higher than the standard $8.98, for his album “Hard Promises.” He again prevailed.

Petty was both a musician and obsessive fan, one who met his childhood heroes and lived out the fantasies of countless young rock lovers. He befriended Byrds leader Roger McGuinn and became close to George Harrison, who performed on “I Won’t Back Down” and joined Petty, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne in the impromptu super group the Traveling Wilburys. Petty inducted Harrison into the Rock Hall in 2004; two years earlier Dylan’s son Jakob inducted Petty. In the 1980s, Petty and the Heartbreakers supported Bob Dylan on a nationwide tour.

He would speak of being consumed by rock music since childhood, to the point where father, whom Petty would later say beat him savagely, thought he was “mental.” Awed by the chiming guitars of the Byrds, the melodic genius of the Beatles and the snarling lyrics of Dylan, he was amazed to find that other kids were feeling the same way.

“”You’d go and see some other kid whose hair was long, this was around ’65, and go, ‘Wow, there’s one like me,’ ” he told The Associated Press in 1989. “You’d go over and talk and he’d say, ‘I’ve got a drum set.’ ‘You do? Great!’ That was my whole life.”

By his early 20s, Petty had formed the group Mudcrutch with fellow Gainesville natives and future Heartbreakers (guitarist) Mike Campbell and (keyboardist) Benmont Tench. They soon broke up, but reunited in Los Angeles as the Heartbreakers, joined by bassist Ron Blair and drummer Stan Lynch. Their eponymous debut album came out in 1976 and they soon built a wide following, fitting easily into the New Wave sounds of the time.

The world changed more than Petty did over the past few decades. In 2014, around the time he received an ASCAP Founders Award, he told The Associated Press that he thought of himself as “kind of a music historian.”

“I’m always interested in the older music, and I’m still always discovering things that I didn’t know about,” he said. “To be honest, I really probably spend more time listening to the old stuff than I do the new stuff.”

Petty entered the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 and rocked the Super Bowl in 2008.

His last D.C. area appearance was July 23 at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore.

____

AP national writer Hillel Italie and AP entertainment writer Sandy Cohen contributed to this report.


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