Sometimes it’s the simple things that make the greatest impact. Sometimes three chords are all you need. “Free Fallin,’” the opening track from 1989’s Full Moon Fever (Tom Petty’s first solo effort without his band The Heartbreakers), was not only the simplest of three-chord rock songs, but it was also written and recorded in two days. But while Petty had already experienced years of success (including several No. 1s on the Rock charts), there was something about this song that captivated the world.
Shortly after its release, “Free Fallin’” became the first Tom Petty tune to break the Billboard Hot 100 top-ten, peaking at #7. It also became Petty’s longest-charting song, and took the album to Platinum sales seven times over in the U.S. He was already famous in the rock scene, but it could be argued that this was the song that brought Tom Petty into the mainstream.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have never stopped recording and performing; a new album is due out this summer, in fact. But even though “Free Fallin’” was a song Petty did without his band, it’s a regular part of the band’s tour playlist. And it has to be: it’s still Petty’s most famous song to date.