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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

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Tom Petty's acerbic attack on the music industry via his 2002 album The Last DJ shouldn't have surprised anyone in light of the fact that he's spent his entire career fighting for old-school, artist-first '60s rock aesthetics. On the other hand, he's balanced his rootsy rock songwriting with a keen marketing sense. Nearly two decades after his emergence on the pop scene, in 1994, he won MTV's Best Male Video award for his hit "Mary Jane."

A native of Gainesville, Florida, Petty's life was never the same after meeting Elvis at age 11 when the King was in town filming Follow That Dream.

Petty's schoolboy band was called the Sundowners, later the Epics and then Mudcrutch. They signed with Shelter Records in 1974, but an unsuccessful first single led to an eventual breakup. Petty then reunited with two Mudcrutch members, guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench, for a demo session. The trio then met up with two other musicians,also from Gainesville, bassist Ron Blair and drummer Stan Lynch, and the group became Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

The Heartbreakers' 1976 self titled debut featured the single "Breakdown," which became a Top 40 hit in 1977 after word filtered back that Petty was creating a firestorm in England. 1978's follow-up, You're Gonna Get It!, was the band's first gold album, and once Petty had clout, he became known for his trademark philosophy of standing by his artistic and business principles. 

While recording 1979's Damn The Torpedoes, Petty tried to renegotiate his contract when MCA purchased ABC Records (for whom Petty recorded). Petty believed artists should own their songwriting copyrights, and his struggle ultimately helped other artists hold onto their copyrights.Damn The Torpedoes was a triple platinum triumph featuring the hits that launched the band to superstar status"Refugee," "Don't Do Me Like That" and "Here Comes My Girl."

In 1981, the band released the album Hard Promises amidst a new controversy; Petty's resistance to having the album released at a higher "superstar product" price for customers. The band gathered momentum throughout the 80's with critically acclaimed albums like Long After Dark (1982), Southern Accents (1985) and the double live set Pack Up The Plantation - Live! (1985). 

Southern Accents earned them their first MTV video award, Best Special Effects for "Don't Come Around Here No More." 1987's Let Me Up (I've Had Enough) featured "Jammin' Me," co-written by Bob Dylan; Dylan and The Heartbreakers subsequently joined forces for an historic world tour. The next year, Petty joined Dylan, Jeff Lynne, George Harrison and Roy Orbison to record as the Traveling Wilburys. The Wilburys released two platinum albums, The Traveling Wilburys (1988) and Volume Three (1990), and Petty received a Grammy Award in 1989 for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. The Wilburys recorded two successful albums, but the untimely death of Roy Orbison ended the band.

Petty made his solo debut in 1989 with the triple platinum Full Moon Fever, which remained in Billboard's Top Ten album chart for over 34 weeks. In 1990 Petty was acknowledged for his songwriting abilities when he received an ASCAP songwriter award for "Free Fallin'." The Heartbreakers reunited for Into The Great Wide Open, whose title track offered amusing insights into the music biz's star-making machinery, Petty released the multi-platinum, double Grammy winning Wildflowers, his first album for Warner Bros. in late 1994. According to Pollstar, the group's next tour was a Top Ten biggest grosser of 1995. Petty then entered the film music realm by writing numerous songs for the Edward Burns film She's The One.

© 2004