Tom Petty admits to being a heroin addict in the 1990s

By Shawn Price
Tom Petty admits to being addicted to heroin in the new book Petty: The Biography. File photo by Laura Cavanaugh/UPI
Tom Petty admits to being addicted to heroin in the new book Petty: The Biography. File photo by Laura Cavanaugh/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- Tom Petty admits for the first time to having a heroin addiction in the 1990s, the author of a new book said.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, musician and writer Warren Zanes said the rock and roll hall of famer gave him total access to write an unauthorized biography. The big revelation is that Petty became a heroin addict in the 1990s. He eventually kicked the habit and wants people to know it.


"That happens when the pain becomes too much and you live in a world, in a culture, where people have reached in the direction of heroin to stop the pain," Zanes, author of Petty: The Biography, said. "He's a rock and roller. He had had encounters with people who did heroin, and he hit a point in his life when he did not know what to do with the pain he was feeling."

Zanes became friends with Petty when his former band, the Del Fuegos, were opening for Petty and the Heartbreakers in the 1980s. Zanes got to be around for the creation of Petty's famous side act, the Traveling Wilburys, too. Petty was impressed with Zanes' biography of singer Dusty Springfield, so when Zanes asked him for help on the book Petty let him have free reign.


But Petty asked director Peter Bogdanovich to keep his addiction out of his documentary Runnin' Down a Dream and Petty was worried that people would take his addiction the wrong way if it came out in the book.

"The first thing he said to me on the subject is 'I am very concerned that talking about this is putting a bad example out there for young people. If anyone is going to think heroin is an option because they know my story of using heroin, I can't do this.' " Zanes said. "And I just had to work with him and say, 'I think you're going to come off as a cautionary tale rather than a romantic tale.'

"I wanted to show that Tom Petty is a man who lived the bulk of his life in the album cycle." Zanes said about why Petty became an addict in his 40s. "He wrote songs, they recorded those songs, they put a record together with artwork, they released it, and they went out on the road to support it. Over and over and over and over and over.

"But then, when he left his marriage and moved into a house, by himself, things slowed just long enough that all of that past came right as he's coming into the pain of not being able to control the well-being of his kids and not being able to control a dialogue with his ex-wife," he said. "The classic situation of midlife pinning a person down to the mat."


Petty: The Biography arrives in bookstores Nov. 10.

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