Author’s Note: I originally wrote this post before seeing the band on their 40th Anniversary tour last May. I will forever be grateful I saw him and the band in person; however, I truly believe that a relationship between a fan and music is not fostered in a huge arena, but through a jukebox, or through a speaker in a house, in a car, or on a walk. At least that is how it was for me. Rest peacefully, Tom Petty, and thank you. – October 3, 2017
What’s your favorite Tom Petty song?
Ask this question to 10 different people and you are likely to get 10 different answers.
It’s a difficult question for many people to answer. But not me. I have my absolute favorite, and of course, several runner-ups. I’m sharing some thoughts and memories of these particular songs below.
Other people’s answers sometimes surprise me, and I at first think, Hmmm I wouldn’t put that one in my top Petty songs, but then when I listen to it again, I hear more of what they hear in it. I’m also sharing some of these below.
My Absolute Favorite: Free Fallin’ aka “0914”
My absolute favorite Tom Petty song – no contest – is “Free Fallin’.” This song is number 14 on the Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Greatest Hits. This CD was disc number 9 on the R&Rs jukebox on the University of Illinois campus back in the mid to late 90s. ’94-’97 to be exact! How do I know this? Because “0914” is burned in my brain as a number I punched into this jukebox several times a week for three years.
Free Fallin’ is so free…it makes me happy and makes me feel like everything is going to be OK. I remember coming out of a job interview senior year, and when I got in my car knowing I would not be getting this job based on how the interview went, I opened the sunroof, turned up the volume, and knew it was all going to be OK. And yes it was.
Runner-up: “You Don’t Know How It Feels”
“You Don’t Know How it Feels” is a “happy song” for me and likely for many other people! I love this album Wildflowers including the title track. My favorite memory of this song is being home from college, maybe a holiday break. We were at at party at a HS classmate’s trailer. This song was playing and my best friend (the biggest Tom Petty fan I know) and I were dancing up a storm. A dad came in looking for his underage daughter (more underage than us as she was still in high school). He walked by us, dodging us, as we just kept on dancing!
Runner-up: American Girl
Of course, American Girl. When I get a convertible this will be the first song I blast. I don’t remember when and why I decided this but I have promised myself this for years. Fun to listen to, this song also tells a great story:
Well she was an American girl
Raised on promises
She couldn’t help thinkin’ that there
Was a little more to life
After all it was a great big world
With lots of places to run to
Yeah, an d if she had to die
Tryin’ she had one little promise
She was gonna keep
He creeps back in her memory when she’s on the balcony – but just for a desperate moment! I don’t usually know what I would say to famous people but I would ask Tom Petty, “What is the promise she was going to keep???” For years I have wondered this!!
Interestingly, this song was on their debut album in 1976 but it didn’t become popular until much later.
New favorites from Long After Dark
Obviously these two songs aren’t “new” but ones I have more recently fell in love with. Both are off of the album Long After Dark (Remastered).They rock!! I haven’t seen these on a recent playlist but would LOVE if he would play either LIVE!!
These are both breakup songs but don’t seem sad at all!!
And speaking of break-ups, I just have to link to one more video that is just beautiful: The Insider duet with Stevie Nicks. I heard him introduce it on Tom Petty Radio (SIRRUS) the other day, and he said he originally wrote it for Stevie. But then he decided it fit perfect on his own album so he took it back! Knowing they have a history together just makes this song so much more beautiful and intriguing.
An Honorable Mention for me is also “The Waiting.” I also LOVE “Rebels.” OK I have to stop thinking now or I’ll just keep adding more. Let’s move on to some other people’s answers…
Other People’s Votes:
And now for some other opinions on “What is your favorite Tom Petty Song?”
One vote for Refugee
So the first time I remember asking this question – What is your favorite Tom Petty song? – to a HS friend, he said his favorite was definitely “Refugee.” Hmm Refugee, I thought at the time. But ever since then I think of him when I hear this song, and you know what, I do like Refugee!!
“Refugee” is from Damn The Torpedoes [Remastered]. This album has a pink cover and I remember the cassette sitting on our dining room table circa early ’80s. I have to credit my dad who at the time was on the cutting edge of rock; he introduced me to Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and many others.
Two votes for I Won’t Back Down
Interestingly both my dad and my husband answered “I Won’t Back Down” as their favorite song that came to mind . I didn’t have this on my initial list but I heard a LIVE version today, and it is good with a great message. This one’s from the famous Full Moon Fever which also of course included “Free Fallin” aka “0914,” see above!!
One vote for Kings Highway
I am adding in a final vote here and this one deserves a lot of respect because it is from my friend who is the biggest Tom Petty fan I know. She said “Kings Highway” is her favorite Petty song. This is from the Into The Great Wide Open album. I admit I couldn’t quite remember this song, so well so I downloaded it yesterday and have listened to it several times since. I actually can’t get it out of my head right now. GREAT SONG. I just love this exercise of finding out other people’s favorites.
And a Book of course
Oh yeah, because this is a book blog I should mention this somewhat recent biography that looks great: Petty: The Biography (2015) by Warren Zanes.
So now let me know what is your favorite Tom Petty song and why??
This post is in honor of the band’s 40th anniversary tour, which I’m looking forward to seeing this week! And also in honor of my best friend who had Tom’s picture in her locker back high school, and thought (and I’m sure still thinks) he was so hot!
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