Like many children of the 80s, struck again by the loss of one of our musical heroes, I’m up late on a Wednesday night listening to Tom Petty. Whenever somebody of Petty’s magnitude dies, I tend to put a Top 5 together, but what I discovered was that the Top 5 I cobbled together off the top of my head wasn’t really my favorite Tom Petty Top 5.
And I loved ’em all.
5. “American Girl”
Petty always had a bit of a punk streak, but this song seemed to be a cross between punk and the 1950s. And that keyboard part from the great Benmont Tench makes the whole thing.
4. “Into The Great Wide Open”
Tom Petty wasn’t just a world-class musician; he was a tremendous lyricist. My buddies and I in college loved this song.
Eddie waited till he finished high school
He went to Hollywood, got a tattoo
He met a girl out there with a tattoo too
The future was wide open
3. “Don’t Do Me Like That”
As a piano guy, this song does it for me every time. If I remember the story right, Petty wrote this song for somebody else but then decided to keep it for himself.
2. “I Won’t Back Down”
Tom Petty was nothing if not hard-headed and rebellious, and God love him for it. The lyric, “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down” is a masterpiece.
1. “Runnin’ Down A Dream”
Again, I point not to the music, which is fantastic with the driving beat, the guitar work toward the end of the song — but to the lyrics. Check this verse out:
It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down
I had the radio on, I was drivin’
Trees flew by, me and Del were singin’ little Runaway
I was flyin’
The man was an artist, and of all people, he reminds me of Prince the most. The southern rock-n-roll Prince. Tom Petty was highly protective of his craft. He had a lofty sense of righteousness, especially within a corporate music industry. And the people who loved his music revered it.
Photo of Petty is courtesy of Harmony Gerber – Los Angeles, USA, on Flickr (Creative Commons license). Here’s a link to his page: