3 Songs for People Who Say They Don’t Like Tom Petty

If there’s anyone who encompasses the idea of American rock music, it’s Tom Petty. From his hair like amber waves of grain to his smooth delivery to his wry smile and pointed lyrics, Petty is one of the heroes of the genre in the United States. He’s also one of the most respected at his craft over the decades, part of a group that includes Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and others.

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But just because Petty has talent and accolades doesn’t mean he’s a favorite of every music listener out there. And that’s why we wanted to create this list. Here below are a trio of songs that can be shared with those who say they don’t like the man’s music. Indeed, these are three songs for people who say they don’t like Tom Petty.

[RELATED: Behind the Metaphysical Meaning of “Learning to Fly” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers]

“Free Fallin'” from Full Moon Fever (1989)

From Tom Petty’s 1989 debut solo album, Full Moon Fever, this track is likely Petty’s most famous. It’s a bright, upbeat song with jangly chords that dance with the heart. Petty wrote it with longtime songwriting partner (and Traveling Wilburys bandmate) Jeff Lynne. It was one of the first songs the two wrote for Full Moon Fever, inspired by people watching and Petty’s drives along Los Angeles street Ventura Boulevard. On the famous tune, Petty sings,

She’s a good girl, loves her mama
Loves Jesus and America too
She’s a good girl, crazy ’bout Elvis
Loves horses and her boyfriend too

It’s a long day livin’ in Reseda
There’s a freeway runnin’ through the yard
And I’m a bad boy ’cause I don’t even miss her
I’m a bad boy for breakin’ her heart

“I Won’t Back Down” from Full Moon Fever (1989)

Lynne said this was the song they wrote directly after “Free Fallin'” for Full Moon Fever. And this is another of Petty’s most beloved songs. Since releasing it, the track has also taken on a life of its own. It’s used by politicians frequently as part of their campaigns when they purport to stand up to haters and injustice. So much so that Petty and his estate have had to send cease-and-desist letters. But the root of the song is courage and on it, the artist sings,

Well, I won’t back down
No I won’t back down
You could stand me up at the gates of Hell
But I won’t back down

No I’ll stand my ground
Won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground
And I won’t back down

“Learning to Fly” from Into the Great Wide Open (1991)

Released on the 1991 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album Into the Great Wide Open, this song was also co-written with Lynne. It’s about coming into your own. Not walking on your own two feet but rising up on your own two wings—not always an easy task, but a necessary one. It’s a buoying, inspirational song that has since become a fan favorite when it comes to Petty’s tracks. On the tune, he sings,

Well, I started out
Down a dirty road
Started out
All alone

And the sun went down
As I crossed the hill
And the town lit up
The world got still

I’m learning to fly
But I ain’t got wings
Coming down
Is the hardest thing

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Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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