Readers’ Poll: Tom Petty’s 10 Best Songs – Rolling Stone
Home Music Music Lists

Readers’ Poll: Tom Petty’s 10 Best Songs

Your picks include ‘Breakdown,’ ‘I Won’t Back Down’ and ‘You Wreck Me’

Tom Petty

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers just wrapped an 11-date run in New York and L.A. that focused on relative obscurities from the band's extensive catalog. Last weekend, the band closed Bonnaroo with a more traditional set of fan favorites drawn from Petty's long list of hit singles. "It's great to play to so many young people that you know couldn't have even been born when we started out," he told Rolling Stone. His favorite moment of the gig? When a young girl in front held up a sign that said, "I was raised on your music."

There's plenty more where she came from. Last week, we asked for your favorite Petty songs. Click through to see the results.


Play video

5. ‘I Won’t Back Down’

Petty's first solo album, recorded in the midst of his days in the Traveling Wilburys supergroup, featured a video for the first single that included two Beatles in his backing band. Fellow Wilbury George Harrison played guitar (alongside Jeff Lynne), and Ringo Starr "played" the drums. The actual drum part on the recording was handled by Phil Jones. 

Play video

4. ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’

Is this song about weed? Given Petty's perpetual grin, it's a safe bet. "If that's what you want to think, it very well could be," guitarist Mike Campbell once said, "but it could also just be a goodbye love song." Sure, that's a possibility. 

Play video

3. ‘Refugee’

Petty had a major record-company headache in 1980, and he has said it affected the tone of the whole Damn the Torpedoes album. "I was so angry with the whole system," he once said. "I was in this defiant mood." Ironically, the song and album helped make him a huge star, with only The Wall coming between Torpedoes and Number One. 

Play video

2. ‘Free Fallin”

Another cut from his 1989 solo debut, Full Moon Fever, "Free Fallin'" is the singer's highest-charting single, reaching Number Seven. It's "a very good song," Petty once said. "Maybe it would be one of my favorites if it hadn't become this huge anthem." 

Play video

1. ‘American Girl’

This is pretty thoroughly American, all right: in this footage from Live Aid, Don Johnson introduces the band from Florida. Petty, looking like a psychedelic Civil War soldier, kicks off with "American Girl," the song that spawned a thousand imitators. It doesn't bother him, he's often said. After all, it is a great big world.