Veteran rocker Tom Petty, who fronted The Heartbreakers, suffered a cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu, California and was pronounced dead in the hospital.

Musician Tom Petty speaks to guests after being inducted during the 47th Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction ceremony in New York, US, June 9, 2016.
Musician Tom Petty speaks to guests after being inducted during the 47th Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction ceremony in New York, US, June 9, 2016. (Reuters)

Tom Petty, an old-fashioned rock superstar who produced new classics such as "Free Fallin," "Refugee" and "American Girl," has died. He was 66.

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

Petty and his longtime band The Heartbreakers had recently completed a 40th-anniversary tour, one he hinted would be their last.

"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."

Unpretentious Rock & Roll

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."

"I'm shocked and saddened by the news of Tom's passing, he's such a huge part of our musical history, there'll never be another like him," Eric Clapton wrote in a statement.

Petty's albums included "Damn the Torpedoes," ''Hard Promises" and "Full Moon Fever," although his first No 1did 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."

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 an 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 of Fame 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.

Music world celebrates Petty

Stars, among musicians and actors, went to social media to express their sentiments.

Bob Dylan said Petty was "a great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I'll never forget him."

Ex-Beatle Ringo Starr wrote on Twitter: "God bless Tom Petty peace and love to his family I'm sure going to miss you Tom", while Paul McCartney wrote a tweet hours before the singer's death. "Sending love to Tom Petty and his family at this difficult time."

Mick Jagger also went to Twitter to express condolences. "So sad about Tom Petty, he made some great music. Thoughts are with his family."

Dr. Brian May wrote on Twitter. "Shocked and so sad at the passing of Tom Petty. RIP. Bri."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies