Instagram.com/annakimwildflower | Getty Images
Source: Instagram.com/annakimwildflower | Getty Images

Tom Petty’s Wife Said She Was Bullied & Sued by Stepdaughters after She Saved Tom’s Life

Bettina Dizon
Mar 30, 2022
01:00 P.M.
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Tom Petty had a turbulent childhood that spilled over into his first marriage. Eventually, he met his second wife, who saved him from his own demons.

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Known as the frontman of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the legendary singer also took a solo career which brought him success. He released hit songs, including "Runnin' Down a Dream" and "Free Fallin." Petty also collaborated with other known artists such as Johnny Cash, Stevie Nicks, and Bob Dylan. 

By the end of his career, the singer had several recognitions, including three Grammy Awards. But behind his fame, Petty had a difficult life that ended with a nasty family feud following his death.

Tom Petty in a side-by-side photo with his family. | Source: Instagram.com/annakimwildflower | Getty Images

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TOM PETTY'S LIFE IN HELL

Petty's turbulent life began at a young age, while he was raised in a dysfunctional home by a drunk father, Earl. He knew that education was not a commodity he would get in his household, so he turned to television instead. "I think it was television that saved my life, that raised and educated me," he said.

His mother tried to act as the barrier between Petty and her husband, but things went downhill when she was diagnosed with epilepsy and cancer. Petty knew he was an artist, interested in fashion and wearing his hair long like the Beatles at an early age. He said:

“Strange as it might sound, I think both my mother and father were probably scared that I was gay.”

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His childhood may have played a role in Petty's emotional development. Admittedly, when a girl did not feel the same way he did towards her, the singer would feel traumatized. "When I got my feelings hurt, I really couldn't have felt worse," he said.

According to the coroner's report, the famous musician died of an accidental drug overdose.

"As a young man and as a child, I was very sensitive, too delicate," he added. "When it came to emotional stuff, I could break like a twig."

Tom Petty performs on stage at the Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park on July 9, 2017 in London, England. | Source: Getty Images

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He wanted to escape his living hell and move to greener pastures, but little did he know his first marriage wouldn't fall short of his childhood nightmare. He said:

“I was used to living in hell. My parents' marriage was hell. I lived through being terribly abused as a kid, and then I found myself in an abusive marriage.”

Petty lived with Jane Benyo and tied the knot before moving to Hollywood in 1974. Although he did not want to, his mother requested it. Together, they had two girls but did not live like a typical family because of Petty's music career, which brought him to many places but home.

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Soon, Stevie Nicks entered Petty's life and shared strong chemistry with him. At that time, Nicks was involved with heavy drug usage and indulged Benyo, who enjoyed it. "She came into my life like a rocket, just refusing to go away," Petty said of Nicks.

Soon, Petty found his wife struggling with mental illness. She became verbally abusive towards her husband and their kids. Author of "Petty: The Biography," Warren Zanes, said:

“Jane would call regularly, obsessively, and threaten suicide if he said he was hanging up.”

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HOW TOM FELL IN LOVE WITH DANA

The couple ended up separating and finalizing their divorce in 1996. However, five years before, Tom met Dana York in one of his Texas concerts. Although they didn't begin a romantic relationship then, the pair reconnected when Petty was a single man again.

"Tom and Dana both felt as though they had known each other their entire lives and were fast falling in love," the Daily Mail reported.

On June 3, 2001, Petty and York tied the knot in Las Vegas during a private ceremony with only a few family and friends in attendance. A second ceremony was held in their Malibu home on June 21, 2001.

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Tom Petty performing in Rome, Italy, circa 1995. | Source: Getty Images

HOW DANA SAVED TOM'S LIFE

At that time, Petty was a struggling heroin addict and did not want York to know, so he kept it a secret. "He was a man playing at the edge of death," Zane said. Even his therapist knew the dangers of Petty's state and told him:

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“People with your level of depression don't live. They kill themselves or someone else.”

Eventually, York found out about her husband's usage, and for a while, it became the elephant in the room. "I'd stepped onto a fast-moving train, but we were having moments of tremendous happiness," York said. "Chaos and darkness and all this happiness at the same time."

Regina Spektor, Dana York, Tom Petty and Adria Petty during the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards at Staples Center on September 6, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

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York's father was a drug addict, so naturally, she understood the complex situation and did her best to help the artist. After Petty's hospitalization, his wife made it her mission to cure him until eventually saving him from his demons.

She nursed him at home and helped Petty sober up and mend his relationships with his children. In 2002, during his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Petty thanked his wife for allowing him to live a beautiful life. He said:

“Especially my wife, Dana, who I love beyond belief.”

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NASTY FAMILY FEUD AFTER THE SINGER'S DEATH

In 2017, York made a frantic 911 call after finding her husband unconscious on the floor. He suffered a heart attack and was brought to UCLA Medical Center, where he was placed on life support. Sadly, he died at the age of 66.

According to the coroner's report, the famous musician died of an accidental drug overdose. His passing was caused by "multiple organ failure due to resuscitated cardiopulmonary arrest due to mixed drug toxicity."

Following his death, York and Petty's daughters fought over his estate. According to Petty's widow, his two daughters, Adria and Annakim, refused to help release the singer's unreleased tracks, redirecting their issues to members of The Heartbreakers. Adria told the band members:

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“What I don't have the temperament for is having my entire life raped. Being disparaged. My dad being disgraced, and being surrounded by selfish, unreliable people and drug addicts.”

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She added, "I am sorry I am not a man and can not earn your respect through the works and deeds I do." According to York's suit, her stepdaughters blocked the release of Petty's solo songs recorded 25 years back.

Meanwhile, the daughters claimed that their step-mom left them in the dark when making important decisions that involved their father's estate, which York denied. Powerhouse attorney, Adam Streisand, said:

“Dana Petty would have done almost anything to avoid all of this. Over the past weeks and months, however, the behavior of her stepdaughters, Adria and Annakim, has gone from unconscionable to unhinged, and it needs to be stopped.”

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Adria Petty, Tom Petty and Dana York during the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards at Staples Center on September 6, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

He further said, "Tom Petty entrusted his wife Dana to choose how all three women could work together to carry on Tom's legacy. But Adria and Annakim thought they could bully Dana and cast her aside. In the process, they've threatened, maligned, and sued the people Tom worked closely with for decades."

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York asked the court to appoint a manager to serve as the mediator between her and her stepdaughters and require a consensus for all decisions regarding her husband's estate. After a lengthy legal battle, the three eventually settled their differences and ended the feud.

Petty's ending is undoubtedly a tragic one. However, he is not the only musical genius who died due to drug usage as powerhouse singer Whitney Houston also saw the same ending.

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