3 of Tom Petty’s Greatest Songs of All Time

He was the GOAT of Southern and heartland rock music, and his songs have stood the test of time. Few people can hold back from belting the chorus when “Free Fallin’” comes on the radio, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, background, or music taste. It’s rare for a musician’s music to be as timeless and accessible as his. Let’s revisit three of Tom Petty’s greatest songs of all time!

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1. “American Girl”

This is one of Tom Petty’s most well-known songs, and certainly one of his greatest songs of all time. It’s a track that manages to fuse so many different types of rock music into a single anthemic tune. It’s shocking that the song wasn’t a major hit when it was released in 1977, though it did manage to chart well in the United Kingdom. Today, it’s a major radio hit that’s still rockin’ on the airwaves.

On “American Girl”, Petty said that the main character of the track was someone that he wrote about often. “The small-town kid who knows there’s something more out there, but gets f*cked up trying to find it,” said Petty. “I always felt sympathetic with her.” 

2. “Refugee”

A major hit from Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’ third album, “Refugee” was notably different from their previous songs. It’s an aggressive, pure rock track. When reflecting on the album “Refugee” was on, Petty lamented that everyone wanted him to be the “future” of rock and roll. “I don’t want to be the future,” Petty had said. “I want to be the present.”

And present he was. The track was something very new and very old at the same time. There was no punk rock influence or New Wave inspiration like many songs had at the time. Instead, it was pure American rock reinvented for the modern age.

[Get Tickets to See Tom Petty Tribute Concerts in 2024]

3. “Free Fallin’”

As we mentioned earlier, this is a song that is hard not to sing along with. It’s Petty’s greatest hit of his career… and it almost didn’t happen. 

When Petty brought the demo for Full Moon Fever to his record company at the time, the label had no interest in it and quickly rejected it. Fortunately, the label went through a few internal changes and some wiser executives decided to release it. “Free Fallin’” catapulted up Top 10 charts, and stayed on Billboard’s Singles Chart for seven whole months.

Photo by Vinnie Zuffante

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