currently executive director of Steven
Van Zandt’s Rock and Roll Forever
Foundation, which provides educational materials on popular music
to middle and high schools. He has
released three solo albums, is working
on a fourth, and wrote a book, Dusty in
Memphis (Continuum, 2004), a brief
exploration of the classic 1969 Dusty
Springfield album of the same name.
It was the Dusty book that reminded
Petty of the shaggy-haired, chipped-toothed guitarist he had met on the
road. When filmmaker Peter Bogda-novich was working on a documentary about the Heartbreakers, Petty
approached Zanes about taking part.
Zanes ended up writing a companion coffee-table book for the film and
subsequently wrote the liner notes for
a Heartbreakers’ anthology.
Still, it surprised Zanes when the
rock star suggested the biography. It
would be a rarity, perhaps unique: one
rock musician writing about another.
Although the book would not carry
the label “authorized,” Petty promised
Zanes his complete cooperation. “It’s
your book,” Petty told him.
“I was shocked at
the level of trust,” Zanes
tells me over breakfast at
Raymond’s in Montclair.
“In my view, he’s a bit of
a recluse. He’s never been
a self-promoter in the
ways you would expect in
the music business. He’s
Indeed, Petty: The
Biography reveals a head-
strong but damaged hero.
The son of an abusive
father, Petty stumbled into rock ’n’ roll
as a teen in Gainesville, Florida, and
achieved stardom as a singer, songwriter and guitarist through a potent combination of talent and sheer determination. The book chronicles Petty’s rocky
road from cover bands to marquee act.
Zanes delivers the requisite tales of
life on the road (“sex and drugs are the
given,” he says), but he delves deeply—
and fascinatingly—into the inner work-
ings of the Heartbreakers
and Petty’s emergence as
a strong leader capable of
making tough decisions,
including firing the con-
tentious drummer Stan
Lynch. At one point, Petty
tells Zanes, “I’ve had to be
brutal.” (Zanes also shares
Lynch’s side of the story
in painful detail.)
Zanes is intrigued by
the band dynamic from
both a musical and social
perspective. “I hope that in some kind
of 20th-century history of America,
there’s a section on bands, because
I think they are a bigger piece of the
American story than anyone realizes,”
he says. Zanes views the Heartbreak-
ers and their contemporaries—notably
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