The outpouring of grief within the musical community after Tom Petty’s untimely death from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs in 2017 said much about the total respect that The Heartbreakers man was held in by his peers. Music journalist Paul Zollo’s newly expanded version of Conversations With Tom Petty goes a long way to explaining why. Instead of conventional biography territory, Zollo’s authorised book takes the form of a number of Q&A sessions based on extensive interviews with the great man over the years.
The big strength of this oral history approach is that its intimacy enables us to feel closer to Petty, the way his mind thinks and his generosity of spirit. As well as giving us a chronological timeline of events (Mudcrutch, The Heartbreakers, the Traveling Wilburys) and an account of close friendships formed along the way (George Harrison, Stevie Nicks, comedian Garry Shandling), there is also a special focus on the songwriting process, which Petty riffs on in nothing less than fascinating detail. It also includes a foreword and photo captions written by Tom Petty himself.