American music legend Tom Petty dies at age 66 after heart attack

The singer-songwriter who found fame with the Heartbreakers and the Traveling Wilburys was found unconscious at home a week after his last concert

FILE PHOTO: Singer Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform during the half time show of the NFL's Super Bowl XLII football game between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants in Glendale, Arizona, U.S., February 3, 2008.     REUTERS/Jeff Haynes/File Photo
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American singer-songwriter Tom Petty has died after being found unconscious in his home, his family confirmed, hours after news organisations were forced to retract unconfirmed reports of his death.

"On behalf of the Tom Petty family we are devastated to announce the untimely death of of our father, husband, brother, leader and friend Tom Petty," his long-time manager Tony Dimitriades said in a statement.

The rocker had been critically ill in hospital after a heart attack a week after he completed a 53-date tour. He was found unconscious in the early hours of the morning in his Malibu home and was taken to UCLA Medical Centre, but could not be revived.

"He died peacefully at 8.40pm (Pacific Time), surrounded by his family, bandmates, and friends," Mr Dimitriades said.

Petty, 66, rose to fame in the 1970s as the frontman of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Erroneous reports of Petty's death had circulated on social media overnight, with TMZ and CBS both reporting he had already died. It triggered an outraged denial from Petty's daughter on her Instagram account.

AnnaKim Violette Petty, the rocker's youngest daughter, had since changed her Instagram name to 'Ilovemyfamily' and her handle to 'dadlivesmatteronelove' and had been posting fond memories of her father on social media in the hours since he was hospitalised.

Shortly after the news broke of her father's death, she posted one simple photo of him alongside the words "RIP".

The Heartbreakers scored numerous hits including American Girl and I Won't Back Down. In the 1980s, he linked up with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison to create the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys. In 1989, Petty released his first solo album, although several Heartbreakers and other well-known musicians collaborated with him on it. It was this album, Full Moon Fever, which gifted the world the hits Free Fallin and I Won't Back Down.

"It's shocking, crushing news," Bob Dylan told Rolling Stone magazine in a statement. "I thought the world of Tom. He was great performer."

He played his last show a week ago, performing three sold-out shows in Los Angeles with the Heartbreakers to conclude their 40th anniversary tour. The tour was the culmination of 53 shows in three countries, according to the band’s website.

Tributes have since poured in from fans, celebrities and musicians alike on social media - though many had reacted to the original, false reports that Petty had passed.

The Twitter page of the late Roy Orbison, who was in The Traveling Wilburys with Petty, posted their song  End Of The Line, with the lyrics "Maybe somewhere down the road a ways... You'll think of me & wonder where I am these days... RIP @tompetty", as well as re-tweeting a throwback photo Roy Orbison Jr had posted of Petty and his former bandmates.


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