Tom Petty died of accidental drug overdose, family reveals

Updated January 20, 2018 12:35:02

Legendary rocker Tom Petty’s death last year was due to an accidental drug overdose, his family says.

Key points:

  • Tom Petty was on seven different medications when he died of accidental drug overdose
  • His family hopes his death sheds light on opioid crisis
  • Petty was found unconscious, not breathing and in cardiac arrest in October

Petty, whose ringing guitar riffs, distinctive vocals and well-wrought everyman lyrics graced such hits as Free Fallin’ and American Girl, was found unconscious at his home on October 2 last year, and died in hospital that night.

His wife and daughter, Dana and Adria Petty, released the results of an autopsy in a statement on his Facebook page, saying coroner results showed the overdose was caused by a variety of medications.

“We knew before the report was shared with us that he was prescribed various pain medications for a multitude of issues including fentanyl patches and we feel confident that this was, as the coroner found, an unfortunate accident,” the statement said.

It was posted moments before the Los Angeles coroner’s office issued its official findings, which attributed Petty’s death to a “mixed toxicity” of fentanyl, oxycodone, generic Restoril, generic Xanax, generic Celexa, acetyl fentanyl, and despropionyl fentanyl.

The medical examiner’s report lists the manner of death as “accidental”.

Petty’s family said he had suffered from emphysema, a fractured hip and knee problems that caused him pain, but he was still committed to his 40th anniversary tour in the US.

“As he did, it worsened to a more serious injury,” the statement said.

“On the day he died he was informed his hip had graduated to a full on break and it is our feeling that the pain was simply unbearable and was the cause for his overuse of medication.”

Petty’s family said they hoped the report of his death would shed light on the opioid crisis in the US.

“Many people who overdose begin with a legitimate injury or simply do not understand the potency and deadly nature of these medications,” the statement said.

“On a positive note we now know for certain he went painlessly and beautifully exhausted after doing what he loved the most, for one last time, performing live with his unmatchable rock band for his loyal fans on the biggest tour of his 40-plus year career.

“He was extremely proud of that achievement in the days before he passed.”

Petty was born in Florida in 1950. He carved a career as a solo artist as well as with his band the Heartbreakers and as part of supergroup the Traveling Wilburys.


Topics: music, death, arts-and-entertainment, united-states

First posted January 20, 2018 12:14:54

Help this family find the last photos of their grandma

Updated December 27, 2017 14:55:43

Grandmother-of-three Patricia Joyce took a dream trip with her husband for his 80th birthday, and she died on the night they returned to England.

Now her family are desperately searching for the photos from two cameras misplaced on the trip, which they believe were lost in a taxi in Sydney.

“Having the photos back would mean everything to us as a family, because these are the last images we have of my nan,” her granddaughter Charlotte Masters told the ABC.

A dream trip that was their last together

Mrs Joyce surprised Brian Joyce, her husband and partner of 63 years, with the tickets for his birthday.

The trip to visit Sydney for the first time and to see the Opera House was a “lifelong dream” for the Hampshire couple, her granddaughter said.

“She passed away the evening of their return to England and without us having the opportunity to talk to her about her trip,” Ms Masters said.

“Whilst my grandad can describe the excitement she expressed from the moment they docked in Sydney Harbour, it would be lovely for us to share that memory with the photographs she took.”

Ms Masters’ plea on Facebook has already been shared more 12,000 times and she said she and her family would be forever “indebted” to the people from all over the world offering their sympathy and help.

“The response to the posts on Facebook have been phenomenal and my family and I have been overwhelmed by the messages of condolence, offers of help and prayers [with] one person in particular spending her Christmas Eve phoning taxi companies, restaurants and bars for us,” she said.

Holiday details could provide camera clue

The Joyces travelled from Singapore to Sydney on the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship from November 21 to December 8.

They still had their cameras when they docked in Sydney some time between December 7 and 9. The cameras were:

  • A black Panasonic Lumix FX33 — serial number: FJ7SA005329
  • A silver Panasonic Lumix FX55 — serial number: FK7JA004534

Mr Joyce thinks they may have left their cameras in a black handbag on a trip between the Sydney Opera House and the Cambridge Hotel in the inner-city suburb of Surry Hills, but is unsure of which cab company they used.

The family are hoping that the memory cards can be found and returned to them and are not concerned about getting the cameras back.

They have asked anyone who finds the memory cards or cameras to contact them via Ms Masters’ Facebook page.

Topics: community-and-society, death, photography, sydney-2000, surry-hills-2010, united-kingdom

First posted December 27, 2017 13:12:06

Kim Jong-hyun of South Korean K-pop boy band Shinee dies

Posted December 19, 2017 00:58:34

The lead singer of South Korea’s top K-pop boy band Shinee has died after being taken to hospital unconscious, local media has reported.

Twenty-seven-year-old Kim Jong-hyun was found unconscious at a rented apartment studio in Cheongdam-dong on Monday evening, the Yonhap News Agency reported, quoting police.

Police arrived at Kim’s apartment in southern Seoul after receiving an emergency call from his sister, who received a text message from his brother shortly before his death.

The singer was moved to a nearby hospital but was later pronounced dead, police said.

Kim arrived at the hospital under cardiac arrest and received emergency CPR treatment but failed to regain consciousness.

Yonhap said investigators believe he died from inhaling toxic fumes. No immediate confirmation from police was available.

Kim debuted in May 2008 as the main singer of Shinee under SM Entertainment, South Korea’s biggest music label and entertainment agency.

He has boasted a nearly decade-long prolific career not just in group activities but as a solo singer-songwriter.

Shinee are considered among the best K-pop performers for their music as well as their complex dance routines.

Many fans took to social media to express their condolences, with many fans also in disbelief.

Kim’s last public appearance was on December 10 at his solo concert in Seoul, titled “Inspired”.


Topics: death, human-interest, arts-and-entertainment, music, korea-republic-of, asia

French farewell ‘the biggest rock star you’ve never heard of’

Updated December 10, 2017 12:55:00

France bid farewell to its biggest rock star Johnny Hallyday with an extravagant funeral procession down Paris’ Champs-Elysees Avenue, a presidential speech and a televised church ceremony filled with the country’s most famous faces.

Key points:

  • 1,500 police were on duty to secure the area around the funeral procession
  • French President Emmanuel Macron delivered an eulogy
  • Hallyday died age 74 after a battle with lung cancer

Few figures in French history have earned a send-off with as much pomp as the man dubbed the “French Elvis,” who notched more than 110 million in record sales since rising to fame in the 1960s.

Hallyday died at 74 after fighting lung cancer.

In an honour usually reserved for heads of state or literary giants like 19th-century novelist Victor Hugo, Hallyday’s funeral cortege rode past Napoleon’s Arc de Triomphe monument and down the Champs-Elysees to the Place de la Concorde plaza on the Seine River.

Hundreds of motorcyclists accompanied the procession in a nod to the lifelong passion that Hallyday, born Jean-Philippe Smet, had for motorcycles. His biker image included signature leather jackets and myriad tattoos.

French President Emmanuel Macron — a Hallyday fan himself, like three generations of others across the French-speaking world — delivered an eulogy on the steps of Paris’ Madeleine Church for the star known to the public affectionately by only one name.

“Johnny belonged to you. Johnny belonged to his public. Johnny belonged to his country,” Mr Macron said.

“He should have fallen a hundred times, but what held him up and lifted him was your fervour, the love,” add Mr Macron, referring to the star’s health troubles and famously excessive lifestyle.

Hallyday’s death unleashed a wave of emotion across France, where he had been a symbol of national identity and stability for more than half a century — even though his private life had been far from stable.

Aside from the drinking, smoking and partying chronicled in juicy detail by the French press, Hallyday had been linked to a string of glamorous women and had married five times.

About 1,500 police officers secured the area in Paris, a police helicopter flew overhead and emergency vehicles filled nearby streets as tens of thousands of fans lined the procession route.

Many dressed to emulate Hallyday’s flashy, rebellious style. Some climbed on fences, stoplights, and even the roof of a luxury hotel to get a better view.

Dubbed by some as “the biggest rock star you’ve never heard of” — Hallyday’s position as one of the greatest-selling musical artists of all time is unusual as he remained largely unknown outside the Francophone world. But in France, he influenced styles, music and even children’s names.

Laura Dublot, a 30-year-old Parisian, and her brother David are among many who were named after Hallyday’s older children, Laura and David.

“He’s a national icon. This scale of funeral is not surprising — he’s united three generations of French,” Ms Dublot said.

Hallyday likely would have approved of this send-off, having told French media he dreaded the idea of an isolated funeral like the one he attended for his father in 1989.

He is survived by his wife Laeticia, two of his former wives, four children and three grandchildren.


Topics: death, community-and-society, arts-and-entertainment, music, history, art-history, france

First posted December 10, 2017 12:51:19

Touched by an Angel star Della Reese dies aged 86

Posted November 21, 2017 12:42:51

Actress and gospel singer Della Reese, best known for her role in television series Touched by an Angel, has died aged 86 at her home in California, her family said.

The actress “passed away peacefully at her California home surrounded by love” on Sunday, her husband Franklin Lett and her family said in a statement.

The statement was posted on the family’s behalf by Reese’s co-star Roma Downey on her Instagram page.

“Through her life and work she touched and inspired the lives of millions of people,” the statement said.

No cause of death was given, but Reese suffered from diabetes, which was diagnosed about 17 years ago.

Detroit-born Reese was trained as a gospel singer, and first found fame in the late 1950s and early 1960s with pop and jazz hits like Don’t You Know.

First African-American woman to host a talk show

By 1969, she had her own talk show Della — the first to be hosted by an African-American woman.

She then landed roles in shows like It Takes Two and Crazy Like a Fox.

But her biggest part was her role as sarcastic supervisor angel Tess on supernatural CBS TV series Touched By An Angel, which ran for nine years until 2003.

The show’s first season brought mediocre ratings, but its audience grew until it became one of TV’s highest-rated dramas.

Reese also sang the show’s title song Walk With You.

In 1997, she went public with a salary complaint, claiming CBS had reneged that season on an agreement to match her Touched by An Angel pay increases to those of Downey.

CBS said at the time it was “puzzled” by her comments.

“I’m trying not to believe it’s because I’m black, ’cause I was black when they hired me,” Reese said at the time.

“They knew what age I was … I don’t know what it is.”

Reese complained of typecasting

Reese’s other TV and movie roles included Beauty Shop, That’s So Raven, MacGyver, The A Team, LA Law, Harlem Nights, Promised Land and The Royal Family.

In her 1997 autobiography, Angels Along the Way, Reese complained she had difficulty avoiding being typecast for roles before Touched by an Angel.

“There were usually only three types I was ever considered for — the singer, the aunt or the mother [or] neighbour,” she said.

“God knows how I wanted to break out of those three categories and show what else I could do as an actress.”

In the late 1980s, Reese started a church from her Los Angeles living room.

The church, called Understanding Principles for Better Living, known as UP, later moved to its own facilities and Reese became known as The Reverend Dr Della Reese Lett.


Topics: actor, television, arts-and-entertainment, film-movies, death, united-states

Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Fats Domino dead at 89

Updated October 26, 2017 02:27:35

Fats Domino, the amiable rock ‘n’ roll pioneer whose steady, pounding piano and easy baritone helped change popular music, has died aged 89.

Mark Bone, chief investigator with the Jefferson Parish coroner’s office in Louisiana, said Domino died of natural causes at 3:30am Tuesday (local time).

Domino sold more than 110 million records, with hits including Blueberry Hill, Ain’t It a Shame and other standards of rock ‘n’ roll.

He was one of the first 10 honourees named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Rolling Stone Record Guide likened him to Benjamin Franklin, the beloved old man of a revolutionary movement.

His dynamic performance style and warm vocals drew crowds for five decades. One of his show-stopping stunts was playing the piano while standing, throwing his body against it with the beat of the music and bumping the grand piano across the stage.

Domino’s 1956 version of Blueberry Hill was selected for the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry of historic sound recordings worthy of preservation.

The preservation board noted that Domino insisted on performing the song despite his producer’s doubts, adding that Domino’s “New Orleans roots are evident in the Creole inflected cadences that add richness and depth to the performance”.

The son of a violin player, Antoine Domino Jr was born on February 26, 1928, to a family that grew to include nine children.

As a youth, he taught himself popular piano styles — ragtime, blues and boogie-woogie — after his cousin left an old upright in the house.

He quit school at age 14, and worked days in a factory while playing and singing in local juke joints at night.

In 1949, Domino was playing at the Hideaway Club for $3 a week when he was signed by Imperial record company.

He recorded his first song, The Fat Man, in the back of a tiny French Quarter recording studio.

“They call me the Fat Man, because I weigh 200 pounds,” he sang. “All the girls, they love me, ’cause I know my way around.”

In 1955, he broke into the white pop charts with Ain’t it a Shame, but actually sang the lyrics as “ain’t that a shame”.

Domino enjoyed a parade of successes through the early 1960s, including Be My Guest and I’m Ready. Another hit, I’m Walkin, became the debut single for Ricky Nelson.

Domino became a global star but stayed true to his hometown, where his fate was initially unknown after Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005.

It turned out that he and his family were rescued by boat from his home, where he lost three pianos and dozens of gold and platinum records, along with other memorabilia.


Topics: death, arts-and-entertainment, music, united-states

First posted October 26, 2017 02:17:21

Emmy Award-winning Benson star Robert Guillaume dies aged 89

Posted October 25, 2017 18:42:34

Robert Guillaume, who rose from squalid beginnings in St Louis slums to become a star in stage musicals and win Emmy Awards for his portrayal of the sharp-tongued butler in the TV sitcoms Soap and Benson, has died at age 89.

Guillaume died at home on Tuesday in Los Angeles, according to his widow, Donna Brown Guillaume.

He had prostate cancer, she said.

Among Guillaume’s achievements was playing Nathan Detroit in the first all-black version of Guys and Dolls, earning him a Tony nomination in 1977.

He became the first African-American to sing the title role of Phantom of the Opera, in a Los Angeles-based production, and was the voice of the shaman-slash-mandrill Rafiki in the film version of The Lion King.

“Robert was a lovely man who we brought in for one interpretation of Rafiki and who then completely reinvented it working in the studio,” Thomas Schumacher, president and producer of Disney Theatrical Productions, said in a statement.

“His passion and dedication and willingness to keep working created an indelible Disney character for the ages.”

Guillaume won a Grammy in 1995 when a read-aloud version of The Lion King, which he narrated, was cited for best spoken word album for children.

He also served as narrator for the animated HBO series Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, which aired form 1995-2000.

‘Benson was revenge for all the stereotyped guys’

While playing in Guys and Dolls, Guillaume was asked to test for the role of an acerbic butler of a governor’s mansion in Soap, a prime-time TV sitcom that satirised soap operas.

“The minute I saw the script, I knew I had a live one,” he recalled in 2001.

“Every role was written against type, especially Benson, who wasn’t subservient to anyone. To me, Benson was the revenge for all those stereotyped guys who looked like Benson in the ’40s and ’50s (movies) and had to keep their mouths shut.”

The character became so popular ABC was persuaded to launch a spin-off, simply called Benson, which ran from 1979 to 1986.

In the series, the main character went from running the kitchen for a governor to becoming a political aide to eventually becoming lieutenant governor.

Benson made Guillaume wealthy and famous, but he regretted his character’s wit had to be toned down to make him more appealing as the lead star.

A troubled life

He was born fatherless on November 30, 1927, in St. Louis, one of four children. His mother named him Robert Peter Williams; when he became a performer he adopted Guillaume, a French version of William.

His early years were spent in a back-alley apartment without plumbing or electricity; an outhouse was shared with two dozen people.

His alcoholic mother hated him because of his dark skin, and his grandmother rescued him, taught him to read and enrolled him in a Catholic school.

He fathered a daughter and abandoned the child and her mother.

He did the same to his first wife and two sons and to another woman and a daughter.

He worked in a department store, the post office and as St. Louis’s first black streetcar motorman.

Seeking something better, he enrolled at St. Louis University, excelling in philosophy and Shakespeare, and then at Washington University (St. Louis) where a music professor trained the young man’s superb tenor singing voice.

After serving as an apprentice at theatres in Aspen, Colorado, and Cleveland, the newly named Guillaume toured with Broadway shows Finian’s Rainbow, Golden Boy, Porgy and Bess and Purlie, and began appearing on sitcoms such as The Jeffersons and Sanford and Son.

Then came Soap and Benson.

His period of greatest success was marred by tragedy when his 33-year-old son Jacques died of complications from AIDS in 1990.

Guillaume’s first stable relationship came when he married TV producer Donna Brown in the mid-1980s and had a daughter, Rachel.


Topics: death, arts-and-entertainment, theatre, television, united-states