Tom Petty presented the inaugural Billboard Century Award in 1992 to George Harrison. Now it is Petty's turn to receive the honor. The Century Award, Billboard's highest honor for creative achievement

Tom Petty presented the inaugural Billboard Century Award in 1992 to George Harrison. Now it is Petty's turn to receive the honor.

The Century Award, Billboard's highest honor for creative achievement, will be presented to Petty during the Billboard Music Awards Dec. 6 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The awards will be telecast live on Fox.

"Tom Petty is one of the true great singer/songwriters," Billboard co-executive editor Tamara Conniff says. "Petty's songs and lyrics go to the root of the American dream. For over 30 years, Petty has been a rock icon who continues to inspire new generations of artists. We are honored to present him with the 2005 Century Award."

At 54, Petty shows no signs of slowing down. With his longtime band, the Heartbreakers, Petty just completed a successful North American tour, drawing more than 550,000 fans to the 36 shows reported to Billboard Boxscore.

"This award comes at a particularly nice time as the Heartbreakers and I go into the thirtieth year of our career. I'm very honored that Billboard has acknowledged me with this award," says Petty.

He is wrapping up his third solo album, "Highway Companion," due in the spring. While sources say he has been in discussions with Sanctuary Records, there is no official word on a new label home. He has previously recorded for Shelter, Backstreet/MCA and Warner Bros.

In the meantime, Petty has four songs in Cameron Crowe's new movie, "Elizabethtown," and on the accompanying soundtrack, which came out Sept. 13.

Influenced by '50s rock and the British bands of the '60s, Petty and the Heartbreakers crafted their own brand of rock'n'roll, generating such hits as "American Girl," "Breakdown," "Don't Do Me Like That," "Refugee," "The Waiting," "You Got Lucky" and "Don't Come Around Here No More."

All told, the Heartbreakers' albums have sold more than 50 million copies worldwide, including their top-selling "Greatest Hits," which has been certified by the Recording Industry Assn. of America for U.S. shipments of more than 10 million units. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

Petty, a four-time Grammy Award winner, has interspersed Heartbreakers projects with two well-received solo releases and a pair of albums with supergroup the Traveling Wilburys, which included his musical heroes Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne.

The Century Award was created by the late Billboard editor in chief Timothy White and former publisher Howard Lander. In addition to Harrison, it has been presented to Buddy Guy, Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell, Carlos Santana, Chet Atkins, James Taylor, Emmylou Harris, Randy Newman, John Mellencamp, Annie Lennox, Sting and Stevie Wonder.

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