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Tom Petty

Upon the release of their first album in the late '70s, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers were shoehorned into the punk/new wave movement by some observers who picked up on the tough, vibrant energy of the group's blend of Byrds riffs and Stonesy swagger. In a way, the categorization made sense. Compared to the heavy metal and art rock that dominated mid-'70s guitar rock, the Heartbreakers' bracing return to roots was nearly as unexpected as the crashing chords of the Clash. As time progressed, it became clear that the band didn't break from tradition like their punk contemporaries. Instead, they celebrated it, culling the best parts of the British Invasion, American garage rock, and Dylanesque singer/songwriters to create a distinctively American hybrid that recalled the past without being indebted to it.

The Heartbreakers were a tight, muscular, and versatile backing band that provided the proper support for Petty's songs, which cataloged a series of middle-class losers and dreamers. While his slurred, nasal voice may have recalled Dylan and Roger McGuinn, Petty's songwriting was lean and direct, recalling the simple, unadorned style of Neil Young. Throughout his career, Petty & the Heartbreakers never departed from their signature rootsy sound, but they were able to expand it, bringing in psychedelic, Southern rock, and new wave influences; they were also one of the few of the traditionalist rock & rollers who embraced music videos, filming some of the most inventive and popular videos in MTV history. His willingness to experiment with the boundaries of classic rock & roll helped Petty sustain his popularity well into the '90s.

Born and raised in northern Florida, Tom Petty began playing music while he was still in high school. At the age of 17, he dropped out of school to join Mudcrutch, which also featured guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench. By 1970, Mudcrutch had moved to Los Angeles with hopes of finding a record contract. The fledgling Shelter Records, founded by Leon Russell and Denny Cordell, offered the group a contract. However, Mudcrutch splintered apart shortly after relocating to L.A. Cordell was willing to record Petty as a solo act, but the singer's reception to the idea was tentative. Over the next few years, Petty drifted through bands, eventually hooking back up with Campbell and Tench in 1975. At the time, the duo were working with bassist Ron Blair and drummer Stan Lynch; soon, Petty became involved with the band, which was then named the Heartbreakers. Petty was still under contract to Shelter, and the group assumed his deal, releasing Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers in 1976.

Initially, the band's debut was ignored in the United States, but when the group supported it in England with a tour opening for Nils Lofgren, the record began to take off. Within a few months, the band was headlining its own British tours and the album was in the U.K. Top 30. Prompted by the record's British success, Shelter pushed the album and the single "Breakdown" in the U.S., this time to success; "Breakdown" became a Top 40 hit and "American Girl" became an album-oriented radio staple. You're Gonna Get It, the Heartbreakers' second album, was released in 1978 and it became the group's first American Top 40 record. Petty & the Heartbreakers were poised to break into the big time when they ran into severe record company problems. Shelter's parent company, ABC Records, was bought by MCA Records, and Petty attempted to renegotiate his contract with the label. MCA was unwilling to meet most of his demands, and halfway through 1979, he filed for bankruptcy. Soon afterward, he settled into an agreement with MCA, signing with their subsidiary Backstreet Records. Released late in 1979, Damn the Torpedoes was his first release on Backstreet.

Damn the Torpedoes was Petty's breakthrough release, earning uniformly excellent reviews, generating the Top Ten hit "Don't Do Me Like That" and the number 15 "Refugee," and spending seven weeks at number two on the U.S. charts; it would eventually sell over two million copies. Though he was at a peak of popularity, Petty ran into record company trouble again when he and the Heartbreakers prepared to release Hard Promises, the 1981 follow-up to Damn the Torpedoes. MCA wanted to release the record at the list price of $9.98, which was a high price at the time. Petty refused to comply to their wishes, threatening to withhold the album from the label and organizing a fan protest that forced the company to release the record at $8.98. Hard Promises became a Top Ten hit, going platinum and spawning the hit single "The Waiting." Later that year, Petty produced Del Shannon's comeback album Drop Down and Get Me and wrote "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" as a duet for himself and Stevie Nicks. Featured on her album Bella Donna, which was recorded with the Heartbreakers' support, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" became a number three hit. Petty & the Heartbreakers returned late in 1982 with Long After Dark, which became their third Top Ten album in a row. Following its release, bassist Ron Blair left the band and was replaced by Howie Epstein, who previously played with John Hiatt.

Petty & the Heartbreakers spent nearly three years making Southern Accents, the follow-up to Long After Dark. Hiring Eurythmics' Dave Stewart as a producer, the band attempted to branch out musically, reaching into new territories like soul, psychedelia, and new wave. However, the recording wasn't easy -- at its worst, Petty punched a studio wall and broke his left hand, reportedly in frustration over the mixing. Southern Accents was finally released in the spring of 1985, preceded by the neo-psychedelic single "Don't Come Around Here No More," which featured a popular, pseudo-Alice in Wonderland video. Southern Accents was another hit record, peaking at number seven and going platinum. Following its release, Petty & the Heartbreakers spent 1986 on tour as Bob Dylan's backing band. Dylan contributed to the lead single "Jammin' Me," from the Heartbreakers' next album, Let Me Up (I've Had Enough), which was released to mixed reviews in the spring of 1987. Just after the record's release, Petty's house and most of his belongings were destroyed by fire; he, his wife, and two daughters survived unscathed.

During 1988, Petty became a member of the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys, which also featured Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne. The Wilburys released their first album at the end of 1988 and its sound became the blueprint for Petty's first solo effort, 1989's Full Moon Fever. Produced by Lynne and featuring the support of most of the Heartbreakers, Full Moon Fever became Petty's commercial pinnacle, reaching number three on the U.S. charts, going triple platinum, and generating the hit singles "I Won't Back Down," "Runnin' Down a Dream," and "Free Fallin'," which reached number seven. In 1990, he contributed to the Traveling Wilburys' second album, Vol. 3. Petty officially reunited with the Heartbreakers on Into the Great Wide Open, which was also produced by Jeff Lynne. Released in the spring of 1991, Into the Great Wide Open sustained the momentum of Full Moon Fever, earning strong reviews and going platinum.

Following the release of 1993's Greatest Hits, which featured two new tracks produced by Rick Rubin, including the Top 20 hit "Mary Jane's Last Dance," Petty left MCA for Warner Bros.; upon signing, it was revealed that he negotiated a $20 million deal in 1989. Drummer Stan Lynch left the Heartbreakers in 1994 as Petty was recording his second solo album with producer Rubin and many members of the Heartbreakers. Like Full Moon Fever before it, 1994's Wildflowers was greeted by enthusiastic reviews and sales, tying his previous solo album for his biggest-selling studio album. In addition to going triple platinum and peaking at number eight, the album spawned the hit singles "You Don't Know How It Feels," "You Wreck Me," and "It's Good to Be King." Petty & the Heartbreakers reunited in 1996 to record the soundtrack for the Edward Burns film She's the One. The resulting soundtrack album was a moderate hit, peaking at number 15 on the U.S. charts and going gold. Echo followed three years later. The Last DJ, a scathing attack on the corporate greed inherent in the music business, was released in 2002. It was followed in 2006 by Highway Companion. Mojo, credited to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, appeared from Reprise Records in 2010. The band toured fairly regularly over the next four years, then returned in the summer of 2014 with the brand-new Hypnotic Eye. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The Live Anthology

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
Disc 4
x

Track List: Highway Companion

1. Saving Grace

2. Square One

3. Flirting With Time

4. Down South

5. Jack

6. Turn This Car Around

7. Big Weekend

8. Night Driver

9. Damaged By Love

10. This Old Town

11. Ankle Deep

12. The Golden Rose

x

Track List: Wildflowers

1. Wildflowers

2. You Don't Know How It Feels

3. Time To Move On

4. You Wreck Me

5. It's Good To Be King

6. Only A Broken Heart

7. Honey Bee

8. Don't Fade On Me

9. Hard On Me

10. Cabin Down Below

11. To Find A Friend

12. A Higher Place

13. House In the Woods

14. Crawling Back To You

15. Wake Up Time

x

Track List: Greatest Hits

1. American Girl

2. Breakdown

3. Listen To Her Heart

4. I Need To Know

5. Refugee

6. Don't Do Me Like That

7. Even The Losers

8. Here Comes My Girl

9. The Waiting

10. You Got Lucky

11. Don't Come Around Here No More

12. I Won't Back Down

13. Runnin' Down A Dream

14. Free Fallin'

15. Learning To Fly

16. Into The Great Wide Open

17. Mary Jane's Last Dance

18. Something In The Air

x

Track List: Into The Great Wide Open

1. Learning To Fly

2. Kings Highway

3. Into The Great Wide Open

4. Two Gunslingers

5. The Dark Of The Sun

6. All Or Nothin'

7. All The Wrong Reasons

8. Too Good To Be True

9. Out In The Cold

10. You And I Will Meet Again

11. Makin' Some Noise

12. Built To Last

x

Track List: Full Moon Fever

1. Free Fallin'

2. I Won't Back Down

3. Love Is A Long Road

4. A Face In The Crowd

5. Runnin' Down A Dream

6. Feel A Whole Lot Better

7. Yer So Bad

8. Depending On You

9. The Apartment Song

10. Alright For Now

11. A Mind With A Heart Of Its Own

12. Zombie Zoo

x

Track List: Southern Accents

1. Rebels

2. It Ain't Nothin' To Me

3. Don't Come Around Here No More

4. Southern Accents

5. Make It Better

6. Spike

7. Dogs On The Run

8. Mary's New Car

9. The Best Of Everything

x

Track List: Long After Dark

1. A One Story Town

2. You Got lucky

3. Deliver Me

4. Change Of Heart

5. Finding Out

6. We Stand A Chance

7. Straight Into Darkness

8. The Same Old You

9. Between Two Worlds

10. A Wasted Life

x

Track List: Hard Promises

1. The Waiting

2. A Woman In Love (It's Not Me)

3. Nightwatchman

4. Something Big

5. Kings Road

6. Letting You Go

7. A Thing About You

8. Insider

9. The Criminal Kind

10. You Can Still Change Your Mind

x

Track List: You're Gonna Get It!

1. When The Time Comes

2. You're Gonna Get It

3. Hurt

4. Magnolia

5. Too Much Ain't Enough

6. I Need To Know

7. Listen To Her Heart

8. No Second Thoughts

9. Restless

10. Baby's A Rock 'n' Roller

x

Track List: American Dream Plan B (Single)

x

Track List: Damn The Torpedoes

1. Refugee

2. Here Comes My Girl

3. Even The Losers

4. Shadow Of A Doubt

5. Century City

6. Don't Do Me Like That

7. You Tell Me

8. What Are You Doin' In My Life

9. Louisiana Rain

x

Track List: Fault Lines (Single)

x

Track List: Forgotten Man (Single)

x

Track List: Red River (Single)

x

Track List: Saving Grace

1. Saving Grace

x

Track List: Somewhere Under Heaven (Single)

1. Somewhere Under Heaven

x

Track List: U Get Me High (Single)

Comments

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Hey baby there's no easy way out. ❤❤❤
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I really enjoyed the Movie Sound City it was a great display of how the music industry used to be. Tom Petty had some interesting takes on it
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ramesz2
Best song ever
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This is a great song about using drugs
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Everybody stand your ground, love Petty
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ashwoodsboy
i had no idea Tom Pettty was so successful. especially in the face of so much difficulty.
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I've always loved his musical voice and am able to appreciate it more, now. Thank you.
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❤❤❤❤❤
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Not Florida.....
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Loving my Tom P!!
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Free fallin
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Was a stand-in on the first TW video back in the 80's. TP was the only superstar in the band who would actually talk to the crew - class rocker!....a w e s o m e couple of days in an abandoned LA warehouse! I'm 59 now and remember it like it was yesterday! JP
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Nothing goes nonstop udvnno
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Love this song
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love the rawk & harmonies in You Wreck Me
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arrowdave6
I just wish I could have been there the day the Vietnam Cong killed Tom Petty. I would have unloaded on those sneaky little Pigmys.
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Don't live like a refuge, my favorite
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ACE BX CYPRESS141.. " I WONT BACK DOWN "LISTENING TO "PETY "
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GREAT HOMIE GREW UP LISTENING TO "PETY"..BX.. C Y P R E S S 1 4 1 . . A C E . .
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Tom petty, what more can I say :)
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Love Tom Petty
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Refuge is my all time favorite, he's the best though
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I personally think THIS is TP's Best..
AN Excellent fold of music variations & lyrics!..... .

0;o)))
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Love me some tom petty!! Man, he can rock
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breakdown: Yes, you all know my story, no doubt, and that's ok. :-)
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Love Mary Janes last dance
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come to SUNCOAST in VEGAS Summerlin..
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ppd7445
tof92, V COOL !!!
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And all the bad boys are standing in the shadows and all the good girls are home with broken hearts.
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Saw Petty in late 80's while living in FL... All can say is, phenomenal
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pumpkin70
One of the best concerts I have gone to. Awesome!
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Tom petty rocks (pun not intended)
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vedkurt
Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker s saved us all from disco.
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I love the Travelin Wilbury's. I thought it was so good. Both CD's were great. Miss Roy Orbison and George Harrison.... .
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I say just go a head jump
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On the way to work , hello everybody , word for the day , get er done southern style $$$
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Never back down ! Travelling willburys was also cool "pretty woman"
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❤❤❤❤❤
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sperkins045
THE best superbowl halftime show better than the crap lately
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rdlarm4
Can't go wrong with Tom Petty!! Great Memories!!
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One of the best songs ever
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Great song always lived this!, did someone send me this
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tsullins3
One of THE BEST halftime shows in Superbowl history.
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✋ ( high-five )
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that bio left out a superbowl appearance but maybe I skimmed over it.
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✌️❤️
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moosolazzo
Love love this song
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Cool song....
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This is a great song, but the video was freakin' CREEPY!!!
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Grew up in Reseda, Tom Petty, Just want you to know that you're one of my real life heroes. During the LA riots he came on the air on a radio station and sang a song live called "Peace in LA". Dude, whether or not you knew it, you DID make difference. Shalom and rock on Mr Petty!
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