A Drunken Poet's Dream

Petty: The Biography

Gator comes clean

A Drunken Poet's Dream

Son of a brutally abusive father with Cherokee bloodlines, Tom Petty sang as an outsider. The 65-year-old Gainesville, Fla., maverick opened a vein to cooperate with this gutting bio, so the river flows melancholy and mojo. Pre-Heartbreakers prose is a long road, but after "Breakdown," it's a breathless ride, Stevie Nicks latching on and FM radio inducting Petty's rattlesnake punk, blues, R&B. On the king's highway, band struggles are offset by unlikely friendships with Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and Jeff Lynne, but even as his catalog unfolds, his family unravels. A workaholic survival instinct, his wife's mental illness, and an estranged teenage daughter color LPs Wildflowers and Echo with newfound poignancy, and some descents are wholly unexpected and shocking: Petty's midlife heroin addiction. Author Zanes empathetically captures his subject's intertwined resilience and frailty: a survivor who may never be at peace, but who's made peace with his past.


Petty: The Biography

by Warren Zanes
Henry Holt & Company, 336 pp., $30

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Tom Petty
Top 10 Box Sets of 2018
Tom Petty
An American Treasure (Record Review)

Tim Stegall, Dec. 7, 2018

Box Sets
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
The Live Anthology (Record Review)

Jim Caligiuri, Dec. 11, 2009

More Music Reviews
You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
Wasn't That a Time: the Weavers, the Blacklist, and the Battle for the Soul of America
Once, folk singers faced jail time and worse for their political affiliations

Kevin Curtin, Dec. 21, 2018

You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
Tori Amos's Boys for Pele
The cult of Tori Amos and how to navigate a life of writing

Rachel Rascoe, Dec. 21, 2018

More by Scott Jordan
Too Late to Stop Now
NRBQ
High Noon: A 50-Year Retrospective (Record Review)

Dec. 16, 2016

Gift Guide 2015: The Boxing Lesson
Bobby Rush
Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush (Record Review)

Dec. 18, 2015

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Tom Petty, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Gift Guide 2015

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle