When Tom Petty died in late 2017, the outpouring of support from musicians from across the musical spectrum proved how wide his influence was. But even before his passing, a wide variety of artists have been drawn to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers evocative lyrics and guitar-driven classic rock. These seven artists, giving their own spin to seven different Petty classics, show that while Tom Petty may no longer be with us, the music he left us never dies.
7. Larkin Poe- Wildflowers
This Tom Petty ballad, from the 1994 album of the same name, was not released as a single but its gentle acoustic message of hope has led it to be a frequently covered song by Americana artists. Sister act Larkin Poe frequently releases acoustic covers on their YouTube channel and, following Petty's death, they showed their appreciation by releasing a DIY living room cover of “Wildflowers” that keeps the wonder of the original while adding their own flowerings with close harmonies.
6. Def Leppard- American Girl
If the measure of an artist's influence is how far his musical net is cast, then this cover proves that Tom Petty was truly one of a kind. British hard rockers Def Leppard are best known for their sexually charged hair metal anthems but their cover of “American Girl,” released on the bonus disc to their 2006 album Yeah was a surprisingly straightforward cover. Vocalist Joe Elliot does a fair pass at Petty's Southern drawl (with a hint of English) while guitarists Phil Collen and nailed Heartbreaker Mike Campbell's closing guitar solo perfectly.
5. Aaron Lee Tasjan and Lilly Hiatt- Walls
Aaron Lee Tasjan and Lilly Hiatt are two of Americana music's brightest young stars, and regular collaborators. Their cover of Petty's “Walls”, from the soundtrack album Songs and Music from 'She's the One', was actually recorded during a session in the summer of 2017 at Magnetic Sound Studios but released right after Petty's death in October of that year. Proceeds went to the charity Music Health Alliance in Tom Petty's name.
4. Corey Taylor- You Got Lucky
As the lead vocalist for Slipknot, Corey Taylor performs under a horror mask and sing an aggressive style of heavy metal that you wouldn't think pulled a lot of influence from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. But Taylor has shown his acoustic side in recent years with a number of solo performances. During a solo performance at Boston's WAAF Radio, Taylor showed off his mellow side with a surprisingly gentle and bleak performance of Petty's 1982 #1 hit “You Got Lucky.”
3. Stevie Nicks- Free Fallin
No artist is more connected with Tom Petty than Stevie Nicks. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers helped launch Nicks as a solo artist, with Petty and Nicks performing a duet on her debut album's biggest hit, “Stop Draggin' My Heart Around”, which reached #2 on the Billboard charts. So when Nicks was looking for bonus material for her 1998 box set Enchanted, it only made sense that she'd honor her friend and collaborator again, with a cover of Petty's “Free Fallin”, a #1 hit from his Full Moon Fever album.
2. Jason Isbell- Refugee
Spend any time on Jason Isbell's social media feed or go to a concert and you'll quickly learn that few artists have influenced him as much as Tom Petty. Isbell's brand of Southern rock and his tight connection to his band The 400 Unit have drawn comparisons to Tom Petty with The Heartbreakers. While Isbell had sprinkled Tom Petty covers into shows for years, he stepped it up in 2017, even punctuating his historic six-night run at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium with six different Petty covers. Considering Isbell's skill with an electric guitar, it's no surprise that the most successful of his covers was one of Tom Petty's hardest rocking songs, “Refugee.”
1. Johnny Cash- Southern Accent
It's one thing to have young artists who grew up on your music cover your songs, but when an artist who influenced your own music covers you, that's a true honor. Outlaw country pioneer Johnny Cash worked with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers extensively on his Rick Rubin produced American II: Unchained album, where he recorded this haunting rendition of the title track from Petty's 1985 album. A Southern music icon recording another's love poem to his home resonates like no other.