Both solo and with his band of Heartbreakers, I consider Tom Petty to be among one of the greatest artists of all time.
His songs are passionate, powerful, at times even a little playful.
I love tracks like Refugee, Runnin’ Down a Dream, and Don’t Do Me Like That as much for their energy and emotion as much as for their wonderful guitars and musical composition, but none of those songs impacted my life quite as directly as Free Fallin’:
This isn’t included on my 52 Songs That Changed My Life list just because it’s a great song, nor because it was the one song that first introduced me to an artist I have since gone on to greatly admire.
It’s on my list because it was the first song I ever played with a band.
She’s A Good Gil, Loves Her Moma…
Free Fallin’ was first released on Petty’s first solo album, Full Moon Fever, back in 1989, but it wasn’t until at least 11 years later that I first heard it.
When I did, it wasn’t even the Full Moon Fever version that I heard.
Loves Jesus, and America Too
It was either 2000 or 2001, I forget which, but basically, the time when Napster was huge.
A recording started doing the rounds of one of my favourite bands –Guns ‘n’ Roses– performing with some guy I’d never heard of called Tom Petty.
The song was called Free Fallin’, and though the recording quality wasn’t the best, it was clear that this was a great track.
A friend of mine agreed, and we both committed to finding out more about this Petty guy. After all, if he was alright by Guns ‘n’ Roses, he had to be pretty awesome, right?
She’s A Good Girl, Crazy ‘Bout Elvis
It turned out he was.
As I’ve already told you multiple times today, Tom Petty -with and without The Heartbreakers- would become one of my all time favourites, and I even class Full Moon Fever as one of my top ten albums of all time.
My buddy wasn’t as taken with Petty as I was, but even he agreed that Free Fallin’ was an awesome song that even a bunch of young kids who weren’t very good with their instruments could get the hang of if they wanted to form a band.
So we did just that, learning to cover this song and writing maybe two or three of our own.
Loves Horses, and Her Boyfriend Too
As you may have figured, the band didn’t exactly set the world on fire. I think we lasted all of six months and that was that.
Despite that, Free Fallin’ remains an important part of my life for one reason.
My best friend Dave.
This isn’t the guy who I first heard Guns ‘n’ Roses and Tom Petty together with. Truth be told, he and I drifted apart, and I have no idea what he’s up to these days.
No, Dave was -at first- just a guy who joined the band as our virtuoso keyboard player.
As the guy who -at the time- was the only member of the band with any discernible talent, I couldn’t help but like him, but that was only part of the reason that Dave and I became friends.
He had that same penchant for debauchery and a soul full of rock ‘n’ roll that I had, and I think we recognised that in each other.
I don’t have many friends left from the year 2000s – 2001, but my buddy Dave is one of them, and all because Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ inspired me and another kid to start a band.
On a final note, Dave later went to university where he started a band called God, The Fury, and Dave.
To this day that is still the best band name I’ve ever heard.copy copy copy
Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty is the 31st song on my list of 52 songs that changed my life. Other entries in this list are below:
- Michael Jackson – Bad
- Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
- Queen – The Hitman
- R.E.M – Drive
- Pink Floyd – The Wall
- The Eagles – Take it Easy
- Beautiful South – Old Red Eyes is Back
- Coal Chamber – Loco
- Type O Negative – Everything Dies
- Monster Magnet – Space Lord
- Live – The Dolphin’s Cry
- Metallica – The Memory Remains
- The Prodigy – Poison
- Nirvana – Territorial Pissings
- Iron Maiden – The Angel & The Gambler
- Metallica – Creeping Death
- Pantera – Cowboys From Hell
- System of a Down – Sugar
- Guns ‘n’ Roses – Garden of Eden
- Guns ‘n’ Roses – Mr. Brownstone
- Metallica – King Nothing
- The Cranberries – Zombie
- The Offspring – The Meaning of Life
- Muse – New Born
- Biohazard – Resist
- Rage Against The Machine – Testify
- Soil – Halo
- Slayer – Seasons in the Abyss
- Alice in Chains – Would?
- Pearl Jam – Alive