Petty: A Biography (★★★★★)

Petty: The Biography

Warren Zanes  *  Henry Holt & Co.  *  November 10, 2015  *  336 Pages

I’ll risk sounding like a loser and just admit that I wasn’t super into Tom Petty before reading this book. Sure, I know (and enjoy) his big hits like anyone else, but not much beyond that. I basically started this book with a clean slate, more curious than anything else, and really just looking to learn.

Well, after finishing the biography, I can say with all honesty that I am now a legitimate Tom Petty fan. I have enormous respect for the man. I really had no idea he had been through so much. I never knew his father used to beat the sh*t out of him for years–but then turned around and mooched off of his son’s success for the rest of his life. It never registered for me how hard Petty worked to get where he is. Truly, his work ethic is admirable. While it seems that his family life suffered for it, I am still a bit in awe that he has remained so focused and determined to succeed after decades in the business. It’s respectable. And yet, despite the fact that he has been so successful, he’s also surprisingly humble. He says many times that he was never in it for the money. He always dreamed of living comfortably, sure–paying rent on time, etc., etc.–but he never got sidetracked by a huge payday. His heart was always in the music.

That became even more obvious to me when I went back and really listened to his music. While reading the book, I played most of the tracks author Zanes highlighted in the book. And I felt like I heard something new in these songs. I noticed the layers to the lyrics and the creativity in the sounds of American Girl, Listen to Her Heart, Insider, You Don’t Know How It Feels, and others. It was just crazy to me how much I got out of these songs after I knew a bit more about the artist.

One last thing…I also want to mention how impressed I was by Petty’s oldest daughter, Adria. While reading, I could tell that she had experienced a lot of pain, especially after watching her parents divorce and then having to essentially raise her younger sister. But she seemed very strong to me–and surprisingly insightful. I looked forward to hearing her perspective on her dad. She added something special to this story.

At any rate, I loved this book. I don’t even normally like biographies that much–just because they tend to be so dry, ugh–but Zanes managed to write this one with a lot of heart. I finished it and felt legitimately connected to Petty and his music. It was a wonderful read.

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