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Biography Review – Petty

Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

I have been a huge fan of Tom Petty for years.  My earliest recollection is finding my sister’s copy of the Full Moon Fever album but my love for Tom Petty really began in 1993 in Miami and Brazil with the Greatest Hits album; it became the music of my summer.  Any time I hear songs from that album I feel compelled to sing along and I am taken back in time. While I’ve attended Tom Petty concerts and listened to his music for years, I really didn’t know much about the man himself.  In comes Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes.

Zanes chronicles Petty’s life from his childhood in Gainesville, Florida to his meteoric rise in the music industry to his position now as rock royalty.  Petty: The Biography was rated as #4 in Rolling Stone’s top 10 music books of 2015.   Beginning with Tom’s troubled childhood with an abusive father and a mother who tried her best, Tom was determined to get something more from his life that was expected.  It was heartbreaking reading of his accounts of living with his father and the lengths his father’s family went to in an effort to exploit his fame. What sticks with me the most was Tom’s admission that having his brother acknowledge and validate Tom’s abuse at the hands of his father proved that he was not alone or making it worse in his mind than it actually was.  I found that to be truly heart wrenching to read.

Tom’s honesty with Zanes about his struggle through the dark times in his life and the roles of his friends, family, and bandmates was illuminating. I felt in the beginning Zanes spent too much time identifying the myriad of former bandmates of Tom’s and it got very overwhelming. I couldn’t keep a lot of the names straight and it was a lot of ‘he was in the band, he was out of the band’.  I think that could have been streamlined quite a bit.  But whether with The Heartbreakers, The Traveling Wilburys, or Mudcrutch, Tom has created unique sounds that fit each band and over the years he has worked at his bands like a business, which I think is what accounted for much of his success.

I admit I was apprehensive about reading this book because I was afraid something would be divulged that would change how I felt about Tom Petty.  Thankfully that did not happen and I got a deepened respect for the man who overcame personal demons and challenges to being a rock and roll legend. I can’t recommend this book enough to other Tom Petty fans.

 

 

 

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