Tom Petty’s career was a work of art

Tom Petty performs during his band’s “40th Anniversary Tour” in Philadelphia. Photo:Associated Press

News out of Santa Monica, Calif., was a heartbreaker late Monday night. Tom Petty, a true musical artist, was dead.

A rock aficionado as a kid, Petty was 10 when he met Elvis Presley and 13 when he watched the Beatles’ celebrated appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” The Fab Four’s TV gig instantly inspired him to pursue a career in music, and after assembling a band a few years later, he dropped out of school at 17 to play bass for the group.

It was the beginning of a half-century journey that would lead him to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, international acclaim and sales of 80 million records.

Petty, who died at 66 following cardiac arrest, was a multitalented artist.

He was a singer, master of multiple instruments, and a renowned songwriter and record producer whose ascent coincided with the rise of his genre, rock ’n’ roll.

Thomas Earl Petty endures on radio stations devoted to classic rock and adult contemporary, performing solo and as a band member.

He is probably best known for his work with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, including hit singles “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Here Comes My Girl,” “Refugee” and “The Waiting.” Petty and the band completed their 40th anniversary tour a week earlier.

But he also distinguished himself with an earlier band, Mudcrutch, and much later with the Traveling Wilburys, a group headed by George Harrison that also featured Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison. “Handle with Care” and “End of the Line” were among his hits with the Wilburys.

Growing up in Gainesville, Fla., wasn’t easy for Petty. His father, according to reports, wasn’t keen on his son’s affinity for the arts and verbally and physically abused him. He was, however, close to his mother and brother, Bruce. But he survived and, ultimately, thrived.

His final day on Earth was incalculably tragic, compounded by premature reports of his passing. Petty experienced cardiac arrest at his Malibu home Sunday night and was taken to UCLA Santa Monica Hospital, where he died shortly before midnight Monday, Pacific time – hours after being taken off life support. The erroneous media reports came up while he was still alive.

A daughter, AnnaKim Violet Petty, ripped into Rolling Stone magazine in an Instagram account believed to belong to her.

She wrote: “My dad is not dead yet but your (expletive) magazine is. How dare you report that my father has died just to get press because your articles and photos are so dated. This is my father not a celebrity. An artist and human being.”

A well-loved artist.