7 Songs You Didn’t Know Tom Petty’s ‘Heartbreaker’ Mike Campbell Wrote for Other Artists

A founding member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Mike Campbell’s contribution to the band’s catalog spans dozens of songs, including “Here Comes My Girl,” “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” “You Got Lucky,” and “Refuge.”

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Through his symbiotic relationship with Petty, Campbell wrote or co-wrote, produced the Heartbreakers, and was there to fill in the music while Petty fleshed out the words.

Campbell’s contributions stretched beyond his Heartbreakers and into Petty’s solo career through countless collaborations with Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Roy Orbison, Stevie Nicks, Don Henley, Bob Seger, among many more, along with his work with his side band the Dirty Knobs. The band released their debut album, Wreckless Abandon, in 2020, followed by External Combustion in 2022.

Honoring the Heartbreaker’s history in song, here’s a look at seven tracks Campbell wrote for other artists.

1. “The Boys of Summer,” Don Henley (1984)
Written by Mike Campbell and Don Henley

Not only did Campbell co-write the lead single, “The Boys of Summer,” off Don Henley‘s 1984 solo release Building the Perfect Beast, but he was also a co-producer on the entire album. Also the opening track, “The Boys of Summer” became a pop hit for Henley, peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Several years later, Campbell co-produced Henley’s blockbuster album Age of Innocence in 1989, along with its closing hit “The Heart of the Matter.” He would also contribute the title track of Henley’s fourth album, Inside Job (2000), and play guitar on several tracks.

But I can see you
Your brown skin shining in the sun
You got your hair combed back and your
Sunglasses on, baby
I can tell you, my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

Read the full story behind “The Boys of Summer” HERE.

2. “Aztec,” Brian Setzer (1986)
Written by Mike Campbell and Brian Setzer

Releasing his debut solo album, The Knife Feels Like Justice, in 1986, Brian Setzer had a body of work outside of his earlier Stray Cats catalog. The roots-driven album was a departure from his full-blown rockabilly and featured guest co-writers on only three tracks, including the E Street Band’s Steven Van Zandt on “Maria” and Campbell on “Aztec.”

We traveled through this land a thousand years ago
We were the first to see the purple skies
I wondered round the desert in a mask of gold
I left a thousand things for you to find
I left my home where your houses stand
I left my gold where your highways ran
I lived my life on what you call your land
I left my soul in the Aztec sand

3. “I’ve Always Got You,” Robin Zander (1993)
Written by Mike Campbell, Robin Zander, J.D. Souther 

When Cheap Trick frontman Robin Zander was working on his self-titled solo debut, Campbell contributed one track, “I’ve Always Got You,” which he co-wrote with the singer and J.D. Souther. The song hit No. 13 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart.

I could drift right into space
With the world running at my heels
All I wanted was a quiet place
A little time for my wounds to heal
Tragedy is lonely man
Out of hope in the promised land

4. “Lucky Girl,” Patti Scialfa (1993)
Written by Mike Campbell and Patti Scialfa

Breaking away from the E Street Band, Patti Scialfa released her solo debut, Rumble Doll, in 1993. Scialfa penned all 12 tracks with the exception of one, “Lucky Girl,” which she co-wrote with Campbell. The album was also co-produced by Campbell and Scialfa’s husband and bandmate Bruce Springsteen.

I never wanted nothing
Baby you know it’s true
I never wanted nothing
The way I wanted you
I kept me hands clean
I walked a good line
I knew someday baby
Someday you’d be mine
And when fortune came to town
I was standing in with the unsatisfied
So I lay my wishes down
For the things that money can’t buy

5. “Lubbock or Leave It,” The Chicks (2006)
Written by Mike Campbell and The Chicks’ Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire, and Emily Strayer 

On The Chicks‘ seventh album, Taking the Long Way Home, produced by Rick Rubin, Campbell and the group wrote a song inspired by the 2005 documentary The Education of Shelby Knox, which centered around a 16-year-old girl who was trying to get the educational system in Lubbock, Texas— which had one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and STDs in the U.S. at the time—to teach sex education.

“It’s not just about Lubbock,” said Chicks singer Natalie Maines of the song, “but about any small, hypocritical town.”

“Lubbock or Leave It” also caused some controversy, referring to the town as a dust bowl and bible belt with more churches than trees, along with the chorus: Temptation’s strong / Salvation’s gone to hell’s half acre / How will I ever get to heaven now.

Dust bowl, Bible belt
Got more churches than trees
Raise me, praise me, couldn’t save me
Couldn’t keep me on my knees
Oh, boy, rave on down loop 289
That’ll be the day you see me back
In this fool’s paradise

6. “I Don’t Care,” Stevie Nicks (2014)
Written by Mike Campbell, Stevie Nicks and Waddy Wachtel

While working on her debut solo album, Bella Donna, Stevie Nicks was insistent that Tom Petty be involved, so he co-wrote the track “Insider,” and then decided to keep that one for The Heartbreakers. Producer Jimmy Iovine then suggested a song he heard Campbell had written called “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” It was Nicks’ first of many collaborations with Petty and Campbell. Both went on to work on Nicks’ second album, The Wild Heart, with the Petty-penned “I Will Run to You,” backed by the Heartbreakers.

By Nicks’ third album, Rock a Little, in 1985, Campbell was on board as a co-producer and also co-wrote the track “Imperial Hotel” with Stevie. Campbell would go on to work on every Nicks album thereafter, writing three more tracks on her follow up The Other Side of the Mirror in 1989, along with her 1994 release Street Angel. He also co-produced Nicks’ 2001 album Trouble in Shangri-La and contributed to her 2011 album, In Your Dreams.

In 2014, Nicks released her eighth album, 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault, with another Campbell song, the smokier rocker “I Don’t Care.”

Campbell and Nicks’ collaborations remained long-lived. Along with Neil Finn, Campbell replaced Fleetwood Mac lead guitarist Lindsey Buckingham on the band’s 2018-2019 world tour.

Some dark love happens
Then you never dream

I don’t care
What you do
I don’t care
Not my thing
I don’t care
About diamond rings
I just care
That you need it

7. “Watch You Burn,” Chris Stapleton (2020)
Written by Mike Campbell and Chris Stapleton

In 2022 Chris Stapleton won the Grammy for Best Country Album for his fourth album Starting Over. The year prior, he also picked up a CMA and ACM for Album of the Year.

For the album, produced by Dave Cobb, Stapleton hand-picked a small group of co-writers, including John FogertyGuy Clark, Mike Henderson, and Susanna Clarke. Campbell was also on board and co-wrote two tracks with Stapleton: “Arkansas” and “Watch You Burn.” The latter song was inspired by the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017, which left 60 concertgoers killed and hundreds injured.

“It’s a self-therapy session sometimes,” said Stapleton of the track. “Sometimes that’s all [a song’s] for. Mike [Campbell] listened and really got it to a place where he made me feel like it was not a song that was meant to be in my pocket.”

Only a coward would pick up a gun
And shoot up a crowd trying to have fun
Now the Vegas lights, they won’t lose their glow
And the band will play and go on with the show

And you’re gonna get your turn
Yes, you’re gonna get your turn
Son, you’re gonna get your turn
Devil gonna watch you burn

I wasn’t there, I didn’t see
But I had friends in your company
If I could snap my fingers, if I could flip a switch
I’d make that last bullet first, you son of a bitch

Photo by Chris Phelps / BMG

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