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13 Tom Petty songs to add to your playlist in the wake of the rocker's death

POSTED: October 5, 2017 9:02 a.m.
Lottie Johnson/

In this Sept. 17, 2017, file photo, Tom Petty of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers appears at KAABOO 2017 in San Diego, Calif. Petty has died at age 66. Spokeswoman Carla Sacks says Petty died Monday night, Oct. 2, 2017, at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles after he suffered cardiac arrest.

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Confusion struck when premature reports of rocker Tom Petty’s death began to circulate.

Fellow musicians and fans started posting remembrances on Twitter Monday afternoon, but it was soon announced that stories announcing the singer’s death had been retracted, leaving many to express uncertainty on social media.

The confusion ended Monday night when spokeswoman Carla Sacks announced that Petty, 66, died at UCLA Medical Center after suffering cardiac arrest.

The singer behind major hits such as “Free Fallin,’” “Refugee” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream” passed away just one week after completing his 40th anniversary tour, according to The Guardian.

Here's a list of 13 songs to commemorate Petty's longstanding career:

1. Breakdown

In 1976, Petty became the frontman for the Heartbreakers, his longtime band that released music up through 2014. The band’s debut album included the single “Breakdown,” which peaked at No. 40 in 1978, according to billboard.com.

2. Cry to Me

In addition to being a prolific songwriter, Petty also created powerful interpretations of other’s songs. In 1979, the musician performed a slower, bluesy rendition of “Cry to Me,” a song first recorded in 1961 by soul singer Solomon Burke. Petty’s rendition showcases his large vocal range.

3. Refugee

The band released its third album “Damn the Torpedoes” in 1979 which included the breakthrough hit “Refugee.” The song peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard’s hot 100 hits, according to billboard.com. Writing "Refugee" was fairly easy, as it took Petty only 10 minutes to create lyrics to the music guitarist Michael Campbell had written, according to teamrock.com. But learning the song was a frustrating process as it took the band more than 100 attempts to get right.

“We all blamed each other," Campbell told Team Rock. "But we never doubted the song. So we just kept at it until, finally, one day we played it and said: ‘Oh, that’s it.’”

4. The Waiting

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released its fourth album “Hard Promises” in 1981. The record included “The Waiting." Petty was inspired to write the line "the waiting is the hardest part" when he heard singer Janis Joplin declare, "I love being onstage, and everything else is waiting," according to rollingstone.com.

"(The song is) about waiting for your dreams and not knowing if they will come true," Petty said. "I always felt it was an optimistic song."

5. Handle With Care

Petty joined former Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison’s supergroup, the Traveling Wilburys, in 1988. The band also included artists Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison. The band’s first song was the hit “Handle With Care.”

6. I Won’t Back Down

In 1989, Petty released his first solo album, “Full Down Fever.” The album included major hits “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin’” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” “I Won’t Back Down,” which peaked at No. 12 in 1989, was briefly used in George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, according to rollingstone.com.

7. Free Fallin’

“Free Fallin’” peaked at No. 7 on Billboard's hot 100 hits in 1990 and has remained one of Petty’s best-known songs. In an interview with Billboard, Petty shared how writing “Free Fallin’” first started as a joke to amuse one of his bandmates but quickly shaped into a song that they wanted to record immediately.

8. Runnin’ Down a Dream

With its lyrics about turning up the radio and driving down the highway, “Runnin’ Down a Dream” is an ideal road trip song and also reflects Petty's thoughts about rock 'n' roll. "To me, American music was all about listening in the car," Petty told Rolling Stone.

"Runnin' Down a Dream" is also the name of a documentary/biography released in 2007 about Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

9. Learning to Fly

In 1991, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released the album “Into the Great Wide Open.” The album included the hit “Learning to Fly." In a 1991 interview with ABC News, Petty shared how the song was important in helping him overcome trials such as the destruction of his California home in 1987.

"('Learning to Fly' is) becoming a philosophy of mine because of things like that," Petty said. "Everyone has tragedy in their life. You can lay down and let the tragedy overwhelm you, or you can fly above it. … I don't say that I can fly, I'm learning."

10. You Don’t Know How it Feels

In 1994, Petty released his second solo album “Wildflowers,” which included the single “You Don’t Know How it Feels.” The song features a display of Petty’s harmonica skills.

11. Walls (Circus)

In 1996, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released a soundtrack to the romantic-comedy film “She’s the One.” The single “Walls (Circus)” features former Fleetwood Mac member Lindsey Buckingham on background vocals.

12. Saving Grace

In 2006, Petty released another solo album titled “Highway Companion,” which included the hit “Saving Grace.” Speaking with Billboard about the album — which was his last solo album — Petty said, “It's just really a nice collection of songs. I think it does have an underlying theme of time and what it does to you."

13. Forgotten Man

In 2014, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released its 13th studio album, "Hypnotic Eye." The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, becoming the first Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album to ever top the chart, according to billboard.com. Check out the seventh track on the album, "Forgotten Man."

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