12 Tom Petty Songs That Have Helped People Through Difficult Times


Almost every time we ask our Facebook communities for songs that have helped them through depression or a particularly hard time in life, someone brings up Tom Petty. No, music can’t cure a mental anguish or make hard times go away, but it certainly can help guide us through or at least provide moments of comfort. For many, Petty did this. As one reader put it, “He is the only musician I have ever listened to that made me feel like he was singing about my life.”

Amid the news of his death, we wanted to honor the rock legend and all he and the Heartbreakers have helped us through. We asked our mental health community to share the Tom Petty songs they listen to during difficult or dark times.

We miss you already, Tom. Thank you for these.

1. “I Won’t Back Down”

“‘I Won’t Back Down’ helped me get through a few bad days over the years. I always found the strength to get back up after getting knocked down. Thankful for that. Another legend gone.” — Rick B.

2. “Refugee”

“The song that pops to mind first is ‘Refugee.’ I can’t explain it exactly… There was something hopeful and healing about his voice.” — Tania T.

3. “Wildflowers”

“Because it gives me a place to go.” — Patty D.

“‘Wildflowers’ is honestly one of my favorites. We all belong to be somewhere free. And feeling that freedom is the best in the world. Also helps remind me to balance myself to stay leveled.” — Dasha H.

4. “You Don’t Know How It Feels”

5. “It’ll All Work Out” 

“On repeat right now.” — Sarah R.

6. “Even the Losers” 

“‘Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes.'” — Chelle N.

7. “Breakdown”

8. “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”

“Absolutely beautiful resounding chords that just send you floating as you witness the narrative unfolding before you like a southern noir film. Love that distorted rootsy sound. Makes me feel at home every time I listen to it.” — Usman M.

9. “Time to Move On”

10. “Free Fallin”

11. “Into the Great Wide Open”

12. “Learning to Fly”

“Growing up, Tom Petty was a staple in our home. Tom Petty has been my dad’s favorite musician all my life, so from the time I was a young child, I was raised on his music. This loss is hard hitting. When I saw the articles popping up online, I immediately called my father. It wasn’t an easy call to make. While many Tom Petty songs have resonated with me over the years, one that stands out to me is ‘Learning to Fly.’ These lyrics in particular stand out: ‘Well some say life will beat you down. Break your heart, steal your crown. So I’ve started out for God knows where. guess I’ll know when I get there.’ This song symbolizes so much for me: change, loss of direction, new paths, uncertainties, and ultimately growth within the struggle. It meant so much to me that 11 years ago, as a college sophomore, I put together a little YouTube video of this song, using clips from my college and my home. I put together this video during a particularly tough time of transition. While I know the cinematography is lacking (my camera skills weren’t the greatest, and this was using the technology available 11 years ago!), the message still stands. Funny enough, here I am 11 years later and the song still resonates. I am still learning to fly, as most of us are.” — Alicia T.

What would you add?


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