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Tom Morello was born in New York City May 30th, 1964. He grew up in Libertyville, IL. His mother's name is Mary Morello, who is the founder of Parents for Rock and Rap, an anti-censorship organization. His father was a guerilla in the Mau-Mau uprising that freed Kenya from British rule. His political education, as he says, "began the first minute you have brown skin and walk onto an inter-racial playground". He lived in Libertyville most of his life while he was in the high school drama club, played Dungeons and Dragons, and was into Marxist politics. It also appears that he was somewhat of a sci-fi geek, due to some references that have appeared throughout the years, such as: The title of the Lock Up album was based on a Ray Bradbury novel, "Something Wicked This Way Comes"; He was in a band when he was younger called 'Electric Sheep'. This was taken from the title of Philip K.Dick's novel 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' which was later filmed as the movie 'Blade Runner'. Finally, 'Radio Free L.A.' was an adaption of the title of another Dick novel, 'Radio Free Albermuth'. Dick was a writer who often expressed disillusionment with the established order of the Universe, and his often subversive works are quite brilliant.

His first experience with guitar, was when he heard a KISS song that he wanted to play. He paid some guy $5 to teach him how to play, but instead, the first thing the man taught him was to tune the guitar. He came back the next week, coughed up another $5, and was taught the C scale. That was it for him, he didn't touch a guitar for years after. Then when he heard a song by the Sex Pistols, he thought that he might be able to channel his feelings and political ideas through a guitar too, so he learned how to play. He went to Harvard University, where he majored in History. This is when he practiced obsessively, at least 8 hours a day on the guitar. After his Harvard friends all left to become doctors and lawyers, Tom went to L.A, because that's where everyone said that you had to go to form a rock band.

Going there with nothing, no friends, or anything except a Harvard Alumni phone directory, he started his rock career, he played with several bands, which were unsuccessful. He started teaching guitar to get along, and finally took a job as a California senator's secretary. He was fired when a woman called complaining that "colored people" were moving into her neighborhood, he told her that maybe the problem wasn't them, but the fact that she was racist. He then formed a band called "Lockup" with the guitarist of Tool, where Tom did backing vocals. He met up with Zack De La Rocha, and formed Rage Against The Machine.