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The 10 Essential Tom Petty Songs

Newsweek logo Newsweek 10/3/2017 Anna Menta

Tom Petty performing live in 1977.: GettyImages-85511376 © Estate of Keith Morris/Redferns/Getty Images GettyImages-85511376 Singer-songwriter Tom Petty, who died Monday of cardiac arrest, was one of the most revered figures in American rock music.

After conflicting reports Monday afternoon, the singer was confirmed dead by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' manager, Tony Dimitriades. He was reportedly rushed to the UCLA Santa Monica hospital Sunday night after he was found unconscious. On Monday, TMZ reported Petty “had no brain activity and a decision was made to pull life support," but later reported the singer was "still clinging to life." Petty was officially pronounced dead on Monday night. 

Petty's music career spans from 1976 to 2014 — 13 albums, two bands and a solo career. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers formed in Gainesville, Florida in 1976 and hit big with their early single, “Breakdown." From there the band became the face of the heartland rock movement, singing with ragged, romantic urgency of rebels and outcasts, dreams and dashed hopes. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, and in 2006 the band received the keys to the city of Gainesville, Florida — Petty's hometown.

Later, he would add to his canon as part of the Grammy-winning supergroup the Traveling Wilburys, which included his friends George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison. And in 1989 he released his first solo album, Full Moon Fever, which included one of his most beloved and widely-known hits to this day: "Freefallin'." 

In a statement to Rolling Stone, Petty's former bandmate and friend Bob Dylan said, "It’s shocking, crushing news. I thought the world of Tom. He was a great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him."

Here are 10 essential Petty songs (though it is hard to choose just 10), in order of release—the best way to remember his irreplaceable talent. 


"Breakdown"

From Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1977.


"American Girl"

From Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, 1977.


"Don't Do Me Like That"

From Damn the Torpedoes, 1979.

"Refugee"

From Damn the Torpedoes, 1979.

"Even The Losers"

From Damn the Torpedoes, 1979.

"The Waiting"

From Hard Promises, 1981.


"I Won’t Back Down"

From Full Moon Fever, 1989.

"Runnin’ Down a Dream"

From Full Moon Fever, 1989.


"Freefallin’"

From Full Moon Fever, 1989.


"Mary Jane’s Last Dance"

A single recorded while Petty was working on Wildflowers, 1993.

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