Tom Petty

(b. 1950)

A prolific source of melodic, personally-charged, guitar-driven Rock and Roll, Tom Petty has proven one of America’s most enduring hitmakers, earning wide respect for maintaining a consistent level of creative integrity throughout a four-decade recording career. During that time he’s racked up scores of Top Ten singles, while maintaining his long association with backup band the Heartbreakers, which includes musicians (including guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench) whom Petty has played with since his bar-band days in his hometown of Gainesville, Florida.

Petty and the Heartbreakers emerged in the late 1970s, and with their catchy choruses and concise songcraft, they were lumped in by many observers with the then-dominant New Wave movement. But the band's mix of Beatles/Byrds jangle and Stonesy punch was deeply rooted in Rock tradition, and Petty's catchy, thoughtful songwriting offered a sharp mix of craft and substance. Throughout their career, Petty and company have maintained their classic sound, while simultaneously augmenting and experimenting with it.

Although Petty and the Heartbreakers’ self-titled debut album appeared in 1976, to moderate success, their real commercial and creative breakthrough arrived with 1979's Damn the Torpedos and its 1981 followup, Hard Promises, which collectively yielded numerous hit singles, including “Refugee,” “Here Comes My Girl,” and “The Waiting.” Petty and the Heartbreakers powered through the 80s with consistently well-received music, and Petty closed the decade with his first official solo release, Full Moon Fever, which, propelled by the hits “Free Fallin’,” “I Won’t Back Down,” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” became his best-selling album thus far. By that point, Petty's membership in the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys, alongside Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne, confirmed his status as a respected Rock statesman.

Petty and the Heartbreakers have continued their momentum in the decades since, with such standout releases as 1991's Into the Great Wide Open, 1994's Wildflowers and 2002's The Last DJ. The latter was particularly compelling, surveying the greed and corporate irresponsibility that Petty saw as devastating the music industry in which he'd come of age as an artist.