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Tom Petty was a child in the 1950s and 1960s, and he once said that he felt bad for modern-day children. When he was in high school, he focused much of his time on music. In more recent years, though, he wasn’t sure if kids had enough time for creative pursuits. He explained his stance on school workloads and the difficulty he sometimes had in telling his young son to do his work.

Tom Petty sits near the front window inside a bus and wears a black vest and sunglasses
Tom Petty | Aaron Rapoport/Corbis via Getty Images

The Heartbreaker’s frontman focused heavily on music when he was growing up

After meeting Elvis when he was 10, Petty dedicated himself to music. 

“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.”

When he was 14, Petty joined his first band, the Sundowners. After he fell out with them, he joined a group called The Epics.

“We realized Tom was the real musician of the band,” his former bandmate Rick Rucker told the Orlando Sentinel.

The pursuit of music was more important to him than educational milestones, and he skipped his high school graduation to play a concert. 

Tom Petty once said that he felt bad for children because of their workload

In more recent years, Petty said he wasn’t wholly sure that students would be able to place as much focus on creative pursuits as he had.

“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.”

As his son was in school at the time of the interview, Petty said it could be hard to say the responsible thing as a parent. He often agreed with his child’s complaints.

“The hardest part for me is when my thirteen-year-old is complaining about the workload. I agree with him,” he explained. “I’m supposed to be responsible and support the teacher. But it’s like, ‘You’re right, son. This is bulls***.'”

Tom Petty once shared the lesson he wanted to pass on to his children

Petty had three children. He shared two daughters, Adria and Annakim, with his first wife, Jane Beyno. He also had a stepson, Dylan, with his second wife, Dana York. Petty shared the philosophy that he worked to instill in them.

“I have a very blessed life,” he told Parade. “I think any time you’re making a living at what you love to do, you’re blessed. That’s what I try to instill in my kids. Go after what you really love and find a way to make that work for you, and then you’ll be a happy person.”


Tom Petty Said Elvis ‘Grunted’ at Him When They Met: ‘We Didn’t Really Have a Conversation’

Petty shared that his grandmother taught him a similar lesson when he was young.

“She thought I was the greatest thing going,” he said. “‘You can do anything you want to do. Just do it,’ she would say.”