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I'm always on the lookout for a good music biography. And this one has made my very good list.
Author Warren Zanes is a musician as well as a writer. He worked with Petty in the past. At first, I thought, oh no, this is gonna be one of those, hey, let me tell you about my pal, rock star Tom Petty.
Petty: The Biography is not that kind of book. It's the story of a kid who meets Elvis, sees the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, and steals every good musician he can find to ride music out of Gainesville, Florida, and away from an abusive dad. You like the Tom Petty that Warren Zanes tells you about, and that's great if you're gonna ride this story to the end.
The author is so good at painting a portrait of a place and time. He really nails the punch-drunk, sometimes stupid, sometimes humiliating experience of following a dream without a road map.
Along the way, you meet an ensemble cast of musicians from every incarnation of Mudcrutch, Petty's early band, to the Heartbreakers. But there are plenty more, even in the Gainesville chapters, so if you're like me you'll sometimes forget who's who. I didn't know Florida in the late '60s - early '70s was such a hotbed of musical talent, the Allman brothers and Bernie Leadon of the Eagles among the lot.
Zanes hits all the highs and lows of Tom Petty's long career. The recording of the first album with Shelter Records in 1976. The early success in England and later in America. Petty's declaration of bankruptcy in 1979 and court battle with MCA for control of his songwriting and career. The creation of songs like "American Girl" and "Here Comes My Girl" and the solo album Full Moon Fever. Personality conflicts. Band members coming and going and coming back. The Traveling Wilburys. And Petty taking his music into the 21st century as an elder statesman of rock.
Warren Zanes also narrates the audiobook. He's not a dramatic reader. His narration is straight, no frills, and doesn't get in the way of the story.
18 of 18 people found this review helpful
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The three things that make any audiobook worth getting are the story, the writing and the narration. Warren Zanes has absolutely nailed all three in this biography of Tom Petty. The story of Petty, which I only discovered though this audiobook, is inspiring and fascinating. The content is highly detailed and backed up by first hand quotes from the people that were there. And there is quite a fascinating cast of characters. Zanes brings it all to life with a perfectly pitched, evocative writing style which is matched by his performance.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful