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Title: 'A Song For Any Struggle': Tom Petty's 'I Won't Back Down' Is An Anthem Of Resolve
Source: NPR
URL Source: https://www.npr.org/2019/05/08/7212 ... k-down-american-anthem-resolve
Published: May 8, 2019
Author: Melissa Block
Post Date: 2019-05-17 10:19:00 by Deckard
Ping List: *Music*     Subscribe to *Music*
Keywords: None
Views: 119
Comments: 2

Tom Petty performs with the Heartbreakers in Belgium in 1992.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.

Editor's note: This story includes discussions of depression, addiction and suicide.


Of all his many, many hit songs, the one that Tom Petty said had the most direct and powerful impact on his fans was "I Won't Back Down."

Well, I won't back down
No, I won't back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won't back down

The song was released in 1989 on Petty's solo album Full Moon Fever. The artist told interviewers that people would come up to him all the time, or would write to him, sharing stories of how this song — with its plainspoken message of resilience and empowerment — helped steer them through difficult times.

"He told me that he heard, or read somewhere, that it brought a girl out of a coma," recalls his widow, Dana Petty. "It was her favorite song and they played it and she came out of a coma, which blew his mind."

"It's a very simple song, but a very powerful song," says Petty's lifelong bandmate, guitarist Mike Campbell. "It's as deep as you want to go. That was one of Tom's talents, that he could say a lot with very few words."

Petty died of an accidental drug overdose in 2017, at age 66.

"A lot of people ask me what was Tom really like," Campbell says. "And that's him. He didn't back down. ... He stood up to everybody. Nobody told him what to do."

"He had a lot of fight in him," Dana Petty agrees.

Over the 20 years that Dana went on the road with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "I Won't Back Down" was a fixture. "They played that every night," she says. "Tommy never got tired of that one, because of the audience response."

There were times, she remembers, when the tens of thousands of fans singing along were so loud they would drown out the band. "It's a song that touches everyone in their own way," she says. "You could see that they were all singing about their lives every night. And it's a pretty amazing thing to witness."

The song's universal appeal stems from its simplicity, says Tom Petty's daughter Adria Petty. "It's like a mantra. It keeps building you up, stronger, stronger, stronger. Every word of the song is culminating in more tenacity."

Her younger sister, Annakim Violette, adds, "Anyone that's ever [sung] that came out of a really dark place into a brighter one. It gave them strength. That's why it's an anthem. It's an anthem for finding strength."

(2 images)

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#1. To: Deckard (#0)

I liked Tom Petty. Read a bio about him and the Heartbreakers (Petty: The Biography). Good read. He'd been through a lot.

Though I like this ditty and video, the sentiment and premise that many find inspiration from his song/lyrics ("I Won't Back Down") is interesting. Mainly in that he lyrics don't give any reason not to back down other than, "I know what's right."

Liberator  posted on  2019-05-17   11:58:29 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#2. To: Deckard (#0)

"It's a very simple song, but a very powerful song," says Petty's lifelong bandmate, guitarist Mike Campbell. "It's as deep as you want to go."

Like Mike Campbell as well. He's a very good guitarist who embellishes a track while refraining from trample all over it with his ego. He also co-wrote "Boys Of Summer" sung by Don Henley, providing that haunting riff.

THAT said, yes, this IS a "simple song"...but it's stretching quite a bit to say, "It's as deep as you want to go."

Liberator  posted on  2019-05-17   12:04:36 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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