Tom Petty's 50 Greatest Songs

His hits have defined rock radio since the Seventies, and he never stopped writing great music. Here's the definitive guide to his best songs

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4. "Free Fallin'"

With the exception of "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," his breakthrough duet with Stevie Nicks, "Free Fallin'" is the biggest hit of Petty's career. However, when he first brought Full Moon Fever to MCA Records, not only did the label not hear a single, it balked at releasing the album at all. "I was stunned," said Petty. "It's the only time in my life that a record's been rejected." As with most of Full Moon Fever, "Free Fallin'" came together quickly. Petty had written the shimmering riff on a little electric keyboard and came up with lyrics while ad-libbing in the studio for producer Jeff Lynne. Luckily, turnover happened at the label, cooler heads were hired, and "Free Fallin'" became a Top 10 smash, staying on Billboard's singles chart for seven months. "There's not a day that goes by that someone doesn't hum 'Free Fallin'' to me, or I don't hear it somewhere," said Petty. "But it was really only 30 minutes of my life."

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