Entertainment Music How Tom Petty’s second wife turned his life around
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How Tom Petty’s second wife turned his life around

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Tom Petty and Dana York met at one of his concerts in 1991. Photo: Getty
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He may have endured a painful divorce and a tumultuous childhood, but for the last 16 years of his life, Tom Petty lived a quiet, contented existence with his wife Dana York.

It was a distraught York who called 911 when her 66-year-old husband suffered a cardiac arrest in their Malibu home on Monday morning (US time) and she was by his side when he passed away hours later.

The pair met at one of Petty’s concerts in Texas in 1991 when they were both married, but reconnected years later and wed in 2001 in Las Vegas, when Petty was 50 and York was 37.

But the road to marital bliss wasn’t a smooth one for Petty, whose 22-year marriage to his first wife Jane Benyo was torn apart by his rise to fame, along with mental health issues and drug abuse.

When Petty and Benyo split in 1996, he developed an addiction to heroin that he was still battling when he got together with York.

Petty regularly credited York with his recovery, admitting she “saved him” from the addiction he was battling in secret.

York stayed by his side through his hospitalisation and battle with depression and they wed soon after he completed treatment for the addiction.

“I’d stepped onto a fast-moving train, but we were having moments of tremendous happiness. Chaos and darkness and all this happiness at the same time,” he told his biographer Warren Zanes.

Tom PEtty first wife
Tom Petty and his first wife Jane in 1991. Photo: Getty

Petty and York never had children together, and instead focused on being good parents to Petty’s daughters from his marriage to Benyo – Adria, a director, and AnnaKim Violette, an artist – as well as York’s son from her previous marriage, Dylan.

Petty endured a childhood at the mercy of an abusive father, who he once recalled would “beat the living sh–t out of me”.

“He beat me so bad that I was covered in raised welts, from my head to my toes,” Petty said.

tom petty dana york
York and Petty in 2002, a year after they married in Las Vegas. Photo: Getty

But living in the affluent beachfront suburb of Malibu with York, Petty found fulfilment by reprioritising his life and focusing on family.

“The only good thing about getting older is you get smart enough to avoid unnecessary problems,” he told Billboard in 2014.

“You know what’s worth spending time on and what’s not.”

York was by his side on all his tours and at his concerts, the most recent taking place just last week at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, where he thanked fans for “40 years of a really great time”.

“I’ve always got Dana there,” Petty told author Paul Zollo in Zollo’s book Conversations with Tom Petty.

“She kind of looks after everything for me on the road.”

While writing his book, Zollo spent time with the couple at their home and painted a picture of a tranquil, supportive marriage.

“Tom’s beloved wife Dana would come in to say ‘Hi’ or to give Tom some homey news,” Zollo recalled.

“One time she brought us fruit smoothies to drink, sensing we needed a break. Another time, after a lengthy and laborious session, she served us both some delicious bowls of chili in their big kitchen.

Dana’s presence always seemed to make Tom, who was already a genuinely happy guy, even happier.

While Petty said his wife’s favourite song was The Wild One, Forever, he lists one of his all-time favourites as being Angel Dream, which he wrote for York when he first met her.

“I saw an angel, I saw my fate,” the lyrics read, “I can only thank God it was not too late.”

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