Review – Petty: The Biography

Final Thoughts: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


My heartstrings were pulled taut after the passing of the musical icon, Tom Petty. They grew ever more tense when my boyfriend gave me a surprise UPS-packaged gift with this book inside. I didn’t know if I was ready to reflect on a lifetime of a legend. As I read through Zanes’ accounting of Petty’s early childhood and formative family life, I felt that I was getting a deeply personal look, where no fan had ventured before. Zanes and the Heartbreakers maintain a first-name basis with Tom within the novel, and reveal stories that are clearly painful in the retelling. As the stories poured out, I felt connected to the journey of musicians born and raised long before I was even an idea in my parents’ minds. Zanes plays on a very crucial note that resonated throughout Petty’s career: millions of us feel tied to his songs, his stories, and his memory, but none of us really knew him.

Zanes’ report avoids soaking up star power, and instead, delves surprisingly deep into the politics at play within a band. He ties together Petty’s personal life experiences with the simmering tensions in the Heartbreakers. Looking back from 2015, Zanes’ leaves it completely up to the band to explain the cause and effect nature of the growth of a band.

Biographies can be hit or miss, but Zanes truly hit the ball so high with this one. His collection of decade-spanning stories curated from each of the Heartbreakers gives a reader a strangely objective look at how Tom Petty’s machine came into being. Zanes’ vivid story-telling and research, combined with memories from the legends themselves, this is easily the best biography I’ve ever read.

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