Singer/songwriter Tom Petty has suffered a massive cardiac arrest, from which he was unable to recover.

After conjecture as to the status of his health for several hours today, the sad news has been confirmed on tompetty.com by Petty’s long-time manager, Tony Dimitriades.

“On behalf of the Tom Petty family, we are devastated to announce the untimely death of our father, husband, brother, leader and friend Tom Petty.

He suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu in the early hours of this morning and was taken to UCLA Medical Center but could not be revived.

He died peacefully at 8:40PM PST surrounded by family, his bandmates, and friends.”

Like many an artist, Thomas Earl Petty was influenced at a young age by Elvis Presley. Unlike many of his contemporaries, however, Petty actually got to meet the legend at age 10, planting a musical seed. But it was seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show that sowed the seed which led to a brilliant career that spanned almost five decades.

Starting out in a band called The Epics, this soon evolved into countrified group Mudcrutch. After they disbanded, Petty tried the solo thing, before soon after hooking up with some former Mudcrutch buddies and putting together Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Their self-titled debut hit in 1976, spawning the now classic Breakdown. You’re Gonna Get It! followed in 1978, but it was their third album, 1980’s Damn the Torpedoes, that saw the band’s popularity explode worldwide, hitting the top 20 here in Australia. The single Refugee was a top 30 hit locally.

1981 saw Petty duetting with Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks on the well-known hit Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around, which even got parodied by “Weird Al” Yankovic as Stop Draggin’ My Car Around.

Come 1981 another album leapt into the world, Hard Promises. Single The Waiting is probably best remembered. Several albums followed, not spawning any huge local hits, but few could forget the fab Don’t Come Around Here No More.

For a change of pace, Petty joined Bob Dylan, George Harrison, ELO’s Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison in 1988 as supergroup The Traveling Wilburys. They recorded two albums between 1988 and 1990, with debut single Handle with Care a top five smash.

The Heartbreakers were still very much a goer though, even if 1989’s album Full Moon Fever was more of a solo Petty thing. His most successful long-player in Australia, it spawned number 16 hit I Won’t Back Down (co-written with fellow Wilbury Lynne) and radio favourites Free Fallin’ and Runnin’ Down a Dream.

1991’s solo Into the Great Wide Open gave us Learning to Fly, which was Petty’s last big chart success here. But success can’t always be measured by chart success, and Petty continued releasing albums both with the Heartbreakers and on his own, including dabbling in soundtracks for She’s the One. The band also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1999, and were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

Touring remained a staple throughout Petty’s musical journey, with he and the Heartbreakers wrapping up a 40th annviersary series of gigs just last week at the world famous Hollywood Bowl.

A man of great musical influence – and by all reports a really cool guy – Petty will be missed. Vale Tom Petty.