Tom Petty Tells the Story Behind ‘Free Fallin’

Read about how he wrote 'Free Fallin'' from 1989's 'Full Moon Fever'

June 27, 2016 5:00 am
Tom Petty
Tom Petty in his hotel room, New York, New York, 1977. (Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images)
Tom Petty in his New York City hotel room, 1977. (Allan Tannenbaum/Getty Images)


In April 1989, Tom Petty released his solo record Full Moon Fever. The album ended up peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and has since gone five-times platinum in the U.S. alone. Save for a lone Byrds cover (“I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”), the majority of the album was written with friend Jeff Lynne (of ELO fame), whom he had been recording with in supergroup the Traveling Wilburys. The record had a trio of hits, including “I Won’t Back Down” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” But the opening track, “Free Fallin’,” would end being Petty’s longest-charting hit, rising to No. 7 on the Billboard singles chart, and become his “signature” song. The songwriter recently recounted to Billboard‘s Cathy Applefeld Olson how he penned the famous track. Apparently, he was just trying to amuse his pal, Lynne. For the full story, click here. Below, watch a live version of the song from the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards, featuring Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose on co-lead vocals.


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