Tom Petty has been my all-time favorite artist for as long as I can remember. The first album I listened to was Full Moon Fever, and I was immediately hooked on his music. For the years to follow I collected all of his work and saw him in concert several times. Tom’s music followed me through all the ups and downs of my life. Upon hearing the news that he died, my heart sunk. It was a hard hit because Tom and the Heartbreakers were a big part of my life and their music was present in many of my best memories.
In honor of Tom’s passing, I present a list of my favorite Tom Petty songs. In no way are these in order of preference because deciding on one song to say is my favorite is impossible for me. Enjoy!
You can’t think of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and not think about “American Girl”. This song put them on the map in 1976 and it is a part of the soundtrack of many fans’ lives. When you hear it you can’t help but sing along and tap your feet. It’s just one of those songs that lifts your spirits.
I love this song so much that I’ll hit repeat several times so I can keep singing along. It’s a duet with Tom and Stevie Nicks, my favorite female artist (and who happened to be my first celebrity crush when I was a kid). The lyrics are full of emotion and the vocals are moving. Tom and Stevie have a history of duets, but “Insider” is my favorite.
This song followed “American Girl” as the song that helped Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers blow up the rock charts in 1976. Mike Campbell’s guitar solo is one of my all-time favorites and it blew veteran guitarists away because it’s placed in the middle of the song, when most solos are at the end of songs. It’s a raw and sly song that never gets old.
Anything That’s Rock N Roll
The song hails from the early Mudcrutch days, when Tom and the boys were wee lads. It’s amazing the level of talent they had at such a young age; the guys were barely in their 20s when they wrote this song. It’s fun and packs a rebel-yell punch.
Listen to Her Heart
Tom Petty opened with this song the first time I saw him in concert. I was so pumped that I jumped up and down in excitement. I was like a kid visiting Disneyland for the first time. Man, that was a blast!
I Won’t Back Down
Whenever this song plays I’m reminded of Tom Petty’s unwavering passion for his music and the ability to stand up to forces who wanted to control him. “Hey baby. There ain’t no easy way out”. It’s the go-getter’s anthem.
Even The Losers
“Damn The Torpedos” skyrocketed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to the top of the charts in 1979. “Even The Losers’ is my favorite from the album. It’s a call out to all the underdogs who always seem to finish last.
A fan favorite from the “Hard Promises” album, “The Waiting” brings me back to hot summer days where you are waiting for something big to happen, but not sure what you’re looking for. It brings out that angst that’s hard to put a name to, but which all kids understand.
Learning to Fly
The imagery in the lyrics of this song is so cool, and the vocals carry you through as you listen. It’s a whimsical song that most anyone who has ever gotten lost in their imagination can relate to.
Mary Jane’s Last Dance
Though the suggestive undertones of the song are obvious (for most people), it’s a great rock song with one of my favorite guitar riffs of all time. Mike Campbell steals the show with his guitar licks and the music video that accompanied the release of the song was awesome.
Everyone can recognize the opening chords to this song, even if they’re not Tom Petty fans. It’s so fun to listen to and sing along with. It’s another great song where Tom uses imagery and great descriptive writing to tell an awesome story.
Alright For Now
I intentionally left this song for the last because it’s the closest to my heart. It’s a lesser-known song, but one I will always love. This is because it’s the first song I ever sang to my wife when we were still dating, and I used to sing it to our kids every night before bed when they were toddlers. When I was away at the police academy, my wife made a picture book of the boys with the lyrics of the song at the bottom of each page. It kept me company while I was away from the family. The lyrics are comforting and warm, and the song is the greatest gift Tom Petty has given to my family.
May the soul of Tom Petty rest in peace with God and the saints.
Thanks for the memories, Tom.
Images from tompetty.com