It was with a heavy heart that we learned this past Monday that rock and roll legend Tom Petty passed away after he was found passed out in his Malibu home from a cardiac arrest. I grew up listening to Tom Petty, and just recently saw him on tour last June for their 40th anniversary tour. Today I’m going to take a break from pop punk and write about a legend, one that has even inspired many of my favorite pop punk bands today. To honor Tom Petty, today’s top ten list will be my favorite Tom Petty songs.
1.) Mary Jane’s Last Dance
This is probably my favorite Tom Petty song. Something about this song makes me want to get up and go for a drive. I think it’s those harmonicas, tbh. The vibe is just so chill on this song, which is great for this farewell tune. Idk man, I just dig it.
2.) You Don’t Know How It Feels
Many people have speculated that this song is about his ex wife, Jane Benyo. This is another song with a nice chill vibe, and those damn harmonicas are back. It sounds so good.
3.) I Won’t Back Down
This song actually stemmed from an arsonist that set Petty’s home on fire while him and his family were inside. They escaped unharmed luckily, but their house was destroyed. It sounds bad, but I’m glad this happened because we got this kick ass song. “You can stand me up at the gates of hell / but I won’t back down.”
^ I like to think that’s how Tom Petty went out. He didn’t back down.
4.) Runnin’ Down A Dream
First off, the guitars on this just scream classic rock n’ roll. They’re really the driving force of this song. Kinda makes me wanna surf. Anyone else? No? Ok. It’s really inspiring actually, as Petty sings about runnin’ down this dream instead of waiting for it to happen. If you want something to happen, you gotta make it happen.
5.) Yer So Bad
This song just makes me want to get up and dance around. Idk, I just really like the chorus. It’s pretty catchy.
“But not me, baby / I got you to save me / Oh yer so bad / best thing I ever had / in a world so mad / yer so bad.”
This is a beautiful acoustic love song. It’s an ode to everyone who maybe doesn’t know where they belong, and Tom is saying you belong somewhere you feel free. It’s pretty inspiring.
7.) Learning To Fly
This song, while many speculate is about drugs, can also be interpreted as someone who is trying to find their way through the hardships of life. Now that I think about it, Tom Petty seems to have a lot of “coming of age” songs. It’s hard to fly when you don’t have wings, but in this song Tom is saying that he’s finding different ways to fly and achieve what he wants.
Although, yeah, I kinda think it’s about drugs too, but oh well.
8.) I Should Have Known It
There’s just something so badass about this song. From the crazy guitar solo to the tone of voice used to present the lyrics, this song just speaks to me. One of the best things about seeing him live this past summer was his stage presence as well; he would walk away from the crowd, turn around, and point a finger at the crowd, singing “That’s the last time you’re gonna hurt me.” It made this song so enjoyable to see live.
9.) Rockin’ Around (With You)
This song is simple and short, with barely any lyrics — but I always keep coming back to it. It embodies everything that I imagine the rock n’ roll era being like. The fast paced drums and guitars drive this song with Petty’s voice that drags out the words.
10.) Free Fallin’
Who would I be if I didn’t include this song? It’s a classic ode to Los Angeles. One of my favorite things about this is how the lyrics set up the girl at the beginning of the song to be the heroine of the story, but ultimately, Petty rejects her to live the “free fallin'” lifestyle that is living in Los Angeles. Petty kind of has a theme throughout his songs, about wanting to feel free. That’s something I’ve always loved about his music.
RIP Tom Petty.