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Tom Petty fell in love with music at a young age and dedicated his life to making songs people cared about. He believed that after a life of doing what he loved, he had insight into a good way to live. He shared his advice for young people and explained that he felt his attitude played a key role in his success. Petty believed that taking shortcuts to achieve fame wasn’t the way to approach life.

Tom Petty stands on stage and plays the guitar.
Tom Petty | Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Heartbreakers singer knew what he wanted to do from a young age

Petty began to voraciously consume music after he met Elvis.

“I was high for weeks,” he said, per Rolling Stone. “It lit a fever in me to get every record I could, and I really digested it. Elvis became the soundtrack of my early years.”

Petty shifted from just being a fan of music to wanting to play it when he was a teenager. The Beatles were responsible for this. 

“This was the great moment in my life, really, that changed everything,” he said of seeing the band on The Ed Sullivan Show, per the Grammys. “I had been a fan up to that point. But this was the thing that made me want to play music. You saw that it could be done. There could be a self-contained unit that wrote, recorded and sang songs. And it looked like they were having an awful lot of fun doing it.”

Tom Petty offered life advice to young people

For Petty, the path to a happy life included music. He recognized that this wasn’t going to be the career choice for many people, but he said that people could take a similar approach to anything they did.

“I put my heart and soul into those records,” he told Mojo in 2010, per The Petty Archives. “I remember things about making them pretty vividly. It’s a great job to have. The best thing to do with your life, I always tell young people, is to try and figure out what you like and make it your work. I’m incredibly fortunate in that respect.”

He didn’t think it was good to set out with the goal of being famous. Instead, he thought people should approach their passions from a place of love.

“I knew when I was very young that I was going to do this job,” he said, adding, “I didn’t do it to make money. I thought I was giving up the chance to make money — musicians who are constantly employed are very few. But I was sure I’d make enough to get by and be happy doing it. Now you see people wanting to start at the top, like on American Idol.”

Tom Petty once said he felt sorry for the way young people had to live life 

Petty acknowledged that pursuing a passion was difficult for young people today because of their academic obligations


Tom Petty Shared What He Found ‘Unforgivable’ About Modern Society

“I feel sorry for kids these days,” he told Esquire in 2006. “They get so much homework. Remember the days when we put a belt around our two books and carried them home? Now they’re dragging a suitcase. They have school all day, then homework from six until eleven. There’s no time left to be creative.”