Rick Rubin: My Life in 21 Songs

From LL Cool J to Kanye West, Slayer to Tom Petty, Johnny Cash to Dixie Chicks, producer reflects on more than three decades of challenging music's status quo

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Tom Petty, "Mary Jane's Last Dance" (1994)

Tom gave me a demo tape of new songs he was writing. It had, like, five songs on it from the early stages of jamming. It wasn't like, "These are the great new songs"; it was more like, "Listen to these, see if you hear anything." None of the songs were particularly memorable, but the guitar riff for "Last Dance With Mary Jane" was between two of the songs, like, after someone tuned up, just the first chords they played. So I call Tom, and was like, "Hey, this whole phrase is really good. You may want to write this song." And he did [laughs]. I don't know how he felt about it. I couldn't read him. Sometimes he would say things very clearly, and sometimes he would not, and feel strongly about something and I would never know [laughs].

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