Petty: the Biography


I am a huge fan of Petty’s music.  Ever since I heard his songs on the radio, I always looked forward to his next release and I knew (no matter what) I would enjoy it.  His style was real and either got you mellow or wanting to dance.  I have been in love with the South (Carolina in particular) for some time and when I found out he was from Florida, my heart got warm and fuzzy.  I received this book for my birthday last year, by request but I only started reading it after he passed away.  I was heartbroken at the news and I wanted to know more about him.  What I discovered was that he had an estranged relationship with his abusive father and that he was part Cherokee.  Zanes reveals to us that Petty was actually quite a shy individual who could hardly stand to be on stage performing in front of thousands.  He knew he had talent and wanted to share it but his nerves would often get the better of him.  He knew that making it big would be a huge hurdle—especially after getting hitched and becoming a father.  He needed the money but he wished he could get the fortune without necessarily claiming the fame.  He had such a love and skill for writing and playing music by himself but he was so used to growing up with his friends, whom helped him form the group they became.  We are given the scoop of how things weren’t always smooth among the band members but that good memories were certainly had—not to mention successful albums.  Reading this book is simultaneously like watching a documentary on Petty and listening to his songs.  It is always interesting to read about the man or band behind the instruments.  There is another level of appreciation for these artists and their creations, once you find out their story.

HisLit title read-alikes:
Here are a few books you may find interesting if you liked Petty’s biography:

The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip by Michael Barclay
Not Dead Yet: The Memoir by Phil Collins
Runnin’ with the Devil: A Backstage Pass to the Wild Times, Loud Rock, and the Down and Dirty Truth Behind the Making of Van Halen by Noel Monk and Joe Layden

The biographies we read about talented musicians have an even more profound effect when the artist featured has passed away.  The books become a souvenir that act as a sort of eulogy and a respectful nod to the person who made this world better, by spreading their unique music—which may have meant everything to a dedicated fan.

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