On Friday night at the Montclair Public Library, Evan Cutler will be interviewing Warren Zanes (both Montclair residents) about his new book “Petty: The Biography.” The Q&A will be followed by a set of live music with Warren and his band. The event is free to all Montclair residents. Reserve tickets online here. This blog post is written by Cutler:
Friends told us we’d love Montclair because it was a special place— bustling with writers, musicians, scholars, and people who worked in film and television. When our family moved to town back in 2004, one of the first people I met was a guy named Warren Zanes. And he happened to be a writer. And a musician. And a scholar. And yes—he worked in both film and TV.
We became fast friends. I had known of him from his days in the Del Fuegos –a Boston-based rock band he played in with his brother Dan back in the 80s. His family had just moved here from Cleveland, where he had been working as Vice President of Education at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As our friendship blossomed, I got to know another side of Warren—one I could not get my head around. And that was his obsession with Tom Petty.
I had always liked Tom Petty. But my tastes ran elsewhere and I certainly wouldn’t consider myself a big fan. Over the years, Warren always seemed to be involved in one cool project after another. Documentaries like “20 Feet From Stardom” and Scorsese’s “George Harrison: Living in the Material World,” as well as his day job running Steve Van Zandt’s “Rock and Roll Forever” foundation. He also somehow found the time to record several really great solo records. But it always came back to Petty. In fact, it seemed like he’d been working on a Tom Petty biography almost as long as I’ve known him.
Fast forward to this past July. As I was huffing and puffing my way up the steep entrance to Eagle Rock Reservation, along came Warren coasting his way down the hill in the opposite direction. He turned around and we spent the next hour or so biking around Montclair and catching up on things until it was too dark to ride. Before we parted ways, he asked me to follow him to his house because he had something special he wanted to give me. It was the galleys for his new book, “Petty: The Biography,” which had just arrived in the mail that afternoon. I started the book the next day while on the DeCamp bus to work. And it quickly dawned on me why Warren was such a huge Tom Petty fan. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that Tom Petty is a very complicated figure. Oh, and the book is absolutely terrific. It reads more like a classic novel than a traditional rock bio. In fact, you don’t even have to be a Petty fan to really enjoy the book. Though by time you’re done reading it, I guarantee you will have Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at the top of your playlist.