I won't back down: 5 things you need to know about Tom Petty

American singer and songwriter Tom Petty died after suffering cardiac arrest on Oct 2, 2017.
American singer and songwriter Tom Petty died after suffering cardiac arrest on Oct 2, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

American singer and songwriter Tom Petty, who died after suffering cardiac arrest on Oct 2, was behind many songs that became rock 'n' roll canon.

Singles like Free Fallin', I Won't Back Down and Refugee have become evergreen staples over the years.

Here are five things to know about the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame singer and musician.

1. HIS DISCOGRAPHY SPANS FIVE DECADES

He and his band released their eponymous debut album, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, in 1976.

A prolific artist, he has consistently put out albums, or EPs, mostly with The Heartbreakers and as a solo artist, once every few years.

His most recent album release, 2, with his old country rock band Mudcrutch, came out last year and peaked at No.10 on the US Billboard charts.

2. FREE FALLIN' WAS INSPIRED BY LOS ANGELES, HIS HOME CITY

One of his most recognisable tunes, Free Fallin', references many landmarks in Los Angeles, where he has lived since the 1970s.

These include Ventura Boulevard, a road he frequently drives along, Mulholland Drive, a street that has inspired many other songs, books and films and the neighbourhood of Reseda in the San Fernando Valley.

Found in his first solo album, Full Moon Fever (1989), the song has been frequently covered by other notable artists like John Mayer and Stevie Nicks. Tom Cruise also sang it in 1996 blockbuster Jerry Maguire.

3. HE WAS PART OF ROCK 'N' ROLL SUPERGROUP THE TRAVELING WILBURYS

Petty was the youngest member of the late 1980s band that brought together music legends George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne.

His involvement was accidental. Ex-Beatle Harrison went to Petty's house to retrieve a guitar he had left behind, and decided to invite him to join the band.

Formed in 1988, the supergroup released two albums, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 (1988) and Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 (1990), the title of which they intentionally misnumbered.

4. HE WAS VERY PROTECTIVE OF HIS MUSIC AND HIS FANS

When record label MCA wanted to increase the price of his 1981 album Hard Promises, Petty stood by his furious fans and objected to the move. The company eventually relented.

He told Rolling Stone in 2002: "It's funny how the music industry is enraged about the Internet and the way things are copied without being paid for. But you know why people steal the music? Because they can't afford the music. I'm not condoning downloading music for free. I don't think that's really fair, but I understand it."

In 1987, he refused to let tire company B.F. Goodrich use his song Mary's New Car for a commercial and sued the company for US$1 million (S$1.36 million) when it eventually ran the television advertisement with a similar-sounding tune. The two parties later settled out of court.

5. HE WENT TO NO. 1 ONLY IN THE LATER PART OF HIS LONG MUSIC CAREER

Despite being one of the best-selling American acts of all time, with 80 million records sold globally, Petty had only one album top the US Billboard charts, Hypnotic Eye in 2014. It was the 13th and last album released by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers.