Runnin’ down a dream: 10 of the best Tom Petty songs


Tom Petty performs during the 2017 MusiCares Person of the Year, honouring Tom Petty, in Los Angeles, California on February 10, 2017. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

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I read a great piece this morning on why losing an artist is like losing a friend. The news of Tom Petty’s passing Monday was a gut punch to millions of people around the world.

It might have been the worst day in the history of music. Not only did you have the worst mass shooting in American history take place at a country music festival, but America also lost an icon.

It doesn’t get better than blaring Tom Petty with the windows down on a hot summer day. He luckily came to Indiana one last time this May and it was incredible.

Finding an artist so universally beloved is rare these days, I’m not sure Petty haters even exist.

For the sake of conversation and because he has so many great songs, here’s a list of ten of his best.

10. I Won’t Back Down

Legends are always great lyricists and Tom Petty was no exception. You can take away many life lessons from his songs.

“I Won’t Back Down” features a chorus that teaches all of us not to give up when things get tough.

9. Runnin’ Down A Dream

It was really tough watching Cubs baseball from 2012-2014. They chose this song as their entrance music as they built to the ultimate goal of winning it all.

Did Tom have something to do with the Cubs winning it all because of this? Yes, he did. Listen to that guitar riff and tell me you’re not ready to run through a brick wall. Better player development tool than facing major league curveballs.

8. Don’t Come Around Here No More

This song wins the award for best Tom Petty music video of all-time. Do you remember pop up video on VH1? They had the most bizarre facts about this video and they played it all the time.

For example, Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics is the Caterpillar. He also co-wrote the tune.

7. American Girl

It’s hard to believe that his first album came out in 1976. Move over disco, it doesn’t get any more bi-centennial than this chorus.

This song also features an incredible arrangement with a guitar solo closing out the tune.

6. You Don’t Know How It Feels

Speaking of how Petty is great blaring with the windows down, this song might win the award of best in that category. Not only was Tom a heck of a guitar player, he also rocks out on harmonica in this song.

The 1994 release on his solo album Wildflowers speaks to the longevity of his career. This song sounds like it could have been released in the 70’s or today. Petty almost had his own sub-genre of rock because all the songs are timeless.

5. You Got Lucky

A personal all-time favorite of mine, the synths at the beginning totally set the mood. It’s edgy..” you got lucky babe, he sings confidently, “when I found you.”

Mix in an amazing guitar solo and a reminder that young love is hard to find and you got yourself an instant classic folks. It’s also very 1982…very Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

4. Don’t Do Me Like that

Petty songs feature constant themes about relationships that ring true to so many. “Don’t Don’t Me Like That” is a premium example of how he kept it real for 66 years.

It was the first single off 1979’s Damn The Torpedoes.

3. Breakdown

Without this song, we might have never heard of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

“Breakdown” is their first ever single of their 1976 self-titled debut. They emerged out of Gainesville quickly with it and the help of second single, “American Girl.”  For me, Breakdown just hits you to your core, it’s sexy, raw and real.

2. Refugee

This was the highlight of this summer’s Noblesville show. The energy he was still playing with was fantastic and he extended it to the delight of 20,000 plus fans.

Musically, this very well might be The heartbreakers and Tom’s best effort.

1. Mary Jane’s Last Dance

The anthem of thousands of Hoosiers growing up, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” is arguably his best.

“She grew up in an Indiana town, had a good lookin’ mama who never was around, but she grew up tall and she grew up right..with them on them Indiana nights.”

Watch him perform it for the last time in Indiana below.

Tom’s music will live on for generations. People will know who he is in the year 3000. Thank you for rocking in Indianapolis one last time and Rest In Peace.

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