Tom Petty's best quotes on fame, greed and the state of rock ‘n' roll

Tom Petty, who died at 66 after suffering cardiac arrest, was never at a loss for words. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, who ran up the charts as the frontman of The Heartbreakers in the '70s and later as a solo artist, sat down with USA TODAY a half-dozen times in his career. The best lines from those interviews:

On wealth:

“We're told we're nothing if we don't have a mansion and dress like a movie star. It's hard on a young person to not think that's the game. ... You can boil all the world's problems down to greed. (For the rich), the money's not enough and they seek power. It's gone into the hands of really shaky people who don't care who they hurt in their quest to have more money than they'll ever need." (2014)

More: Hearts break in Hollywood after Tom Petty dies at 66

On technology:

"If you let some kid invent artificial intelligence that updates itself, then you're in trouble. You don't want to invent a bigger brain and put it in a bear." (2014)

"I'd have to give (technology) a D-plus. I think it's unhealthy for rock. I can hear digital anything. It sounds different. It's very cold." (1994)

On religion:

“(It’s) a touchy subject. People get scared and take politics into their churches and actually think God wants them to go to war.  Religions caused almost every war that's gone down. Child abuse is covered up again and again. If I were in that club, I'd quit." (2014)

On his emotional health:

"I had some long periods of severe depression. I took some hard knocks and retreated from the world and lived in this little cabin. I didn't see a lot of people. I wasn't happy, and I didn't want to lay that on everybody. Even when I was in public, I didn't want to be there, and that's a terrible feeling. It took me a while to want to come back." (2006)


“I had to grow up in a lot of ways. If you do this all your life, you don't have a normal experience. The rock 'n' roll lifestyle does not encourage you to be responsible. I'm still sorting it out, but I'm on better ground." (2006)

On the state of popular music:

"Pop music isn't very good, and it's not designed for anybody over 12. My boy band was The Beatles." (2014)

"Rock is where blues and jazz are sitting. It's been elbowed to the side, but I don't think it's done yet. You'll see young people give it another run for its money." (2014)

"You have a lot of young bands doing it for the right reasons. They're not caught up in being MTV stars or fitting a certain marketing scheme. I love the honest attitude and whole vibe of it. For a long time, what was masquerading as rock was not very genuine." (1994)

"I wish there was some pocket of rock 'n' roll still going strong, but there isn't. I think rap is probably the only form of music out that continually has something to say." (1990)

"The trend of looking back to the '60s has gotten us nowhere. You've got generations now that don't have anything of their own. They seem to long for identity. Teens are so consumed with the '60s, peace signs and psychedelia. Their own generation is full of young Republicans, and rock 'n' roll is guys in rubber pants and hair spray." (1990)

On making money in the music business:

"We have no intention of turning into an oldies group. It’s very lucrative, and everyone has a great time if you play hits for two hours, but I'm not done and I want people to know it." (2010)

"I don't think it's worth it to associate your song with a truck. And we don't have tour sponsors. It's tempting, because they do offer significant amounts of money, but I like the feeling that this is our band, and we own it." (2010)

"Standards go down, we settle for less. A CD is not expected to have more than one or two good songs. And I find it amazing that audiences accept lip-syncing in live shows. … None of us seem to be enjoying popular entertainment. It's missing an element of truth, almost to a crisis proportion." (2002)

"It would denigrate me to embrace that culture and write music for teenagers. When you see people trying to tailor something for a specific age group, it rings false. I've picked that up from my daughters. They know when they're being patronized." (1994)

On his longevity:

"I don't want to be turning flips at 60. I see rock musicians who really don't understand how old they are, and it's undignified. I find those people embarrassing." (2010)

"I'm really conscious of wasting time. It's funny when you realize there are time limits. I'm impatient now with anything that gets in the way of what I want to do. I want to get everything down. Why would I want to do anything else? Rock 'n' roll is such a good job." (2006)

"Sometimes I feel like an old football player. I'm just grateful I have an audience because I'm sure not ready to quit. But I promise you, I won't hang around and suck." (1994)

On refusing to be isolated by fame:

"If anyone's been tributed to death, it's Elvis. Maybe the idea was to illustrate that the man was one of the great artists of all time, a fact blurred when he became such a huge, mythical part of the culture. But tributes are a delicate matter, because you can actually disgrace the artist by trying to pay tribute." (1994)

“I still go to the store. I think anyone can. … Too many friends of mine spent decades in houses behind walls. That's not good. The joke's on you at that point." (1990)

Contributing: Edna Gundersen

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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