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Report: Tom Petty lived in chronic pain, knew performing days were over

Photo by Mark Horton/Getty Images

According to a source close to Tom Petty, the Heartbreakers leader lived in near constant pain, and was set to retire from the road.

Tom Petty died on October 2nd at age 66, after suffering a cardiac arrest at his Malibu home.

An unnamed insider told Radaronline.com, "Tom hadn’t been doing well for a while, and when the band got back from London, he seemed to be on his last legs. Back in the ’90s, Tom had a very bad heroin habit, and it left him with muscle and bone pain. Recently, Tom had to be given vitamin B12 shots -- 30 or 40 units a day -- just to give him the energy to perform! Tom was in severe pain. He was due to have a hip replacement and was exhausted from working his butt off. . . His family begged him to rest up, but he vowed to finish the tour for his fans."

The source went on to say: "Tom knew there wouldn’t be any more shows. He wanted to go out on top. He blew the place away! Tom left it all on stage. Unfortunately, it cost him his life! . . . Tom knew he gave everything he had to rock ’n’ roll and his fans. He was ready to go."

When we last caught up with Tom Petty, he told us that he remained proud that the Heartbreakers still operate at the same level and with the same passion as they did back in the '70s: "You've gotta keep that spirit alive, and sometimes I see quite a bit of it. Sometimes I look up and I go, 'God, it could be 1970.' It's a hard thing to nail down, but I think I'd be lost if I didn't have these people to play with -- I know that for sure.”

There has been no word from Petty's family, band, or management regarding any type of public memorial.

Side Notes:

Warren Zanes' 2015 book on Tom Petty -- Petty: The Biography -- published the first official account of Petty's dalliance with heroin. At the time of publication, Zane told The Washington Post: "He’s a rock and roller. He had had encounters with people who did heroin, and he hit a point in his life when he did not know what to do with the pain he was feeling.”

Supposedly in the original cut of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' 2008 career-spanning documentary Runnin’ Down A Dream, Petty had addressed his heroin use -- only to have it cut from Peter Bogdanvich’s final version. Zanes explained how Petty handled the topic within the new book: “The first thing he said to me on the subject is ‘I am very concerned that very concerned that talking about this is putting a bad example out there for young people. If anyone is going to think heroin is an option because they know my story of using heroin, I can’t do this.’ And I just had to work with him and say, ‘I think you’re going to come off as a cautionary tale rather than a romantic tale.’ But I wanted to show that Tom Petty is a man who lived the bulk of his life in the album cycle. He wrote songs, they recorded those songs, they put a record together with artwork, they released it, and they went out on the road to support it. Over and over and over and over and over. And he, being the leader of the band, had to do most of the work around it.”

Zanes went on to explain how heroin came into play, explaining, “I think he was invested in being caught in that cycle in part because there was so much movement in it all that the trouble from his past was kept at bay. But then, when he left his marriage and moved into a house, by himself, things slowed just long enough that all of that past came right as he’s coming into the pain of not being able to control the well-being of his kids and not being able to control a dialogue with his ex-wife. The classic situation of midlife pinning a person down to the mat.”


Check it out: Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers in concert on May 12, 2017 at Scottrade Center

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - May 12, 2017

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at Scottrade Center - May 12, 2017
Photo by: 
© Ben Vogelsang, Idea Machine Productions

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