How A Joke By Tom Petty Turned Into The Song “Free Fallin'”


Musician Tom Petty was sitting in the studio one day when he started working on a comical song called “Free Fallin.’” The musician’s southern charm and gritty lyrics made him one of the great legends of rock and roll.

While sitting with producer Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty started to spout out new ideas for songs and lyrics. The duo bounced back ideas until they hit some common ground for a theme. But there was no real progress on that day.

Eventually, Lynne suggested that Petty drop the keyboarding up-tempo ideas and change up everything.

Tom Petty Song Started With A Laugh

Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty | Photo Credit Something Else

Slowing things down actually made something new and great. While speaking with Billboard, Tom Petty revealed, “I was playing the keyboard and I just happened to hit on that main riff.”

Soon after, Petty added that he liked the riff but it was sounded like one chord too many. Basically, from that point, he cut back a chord and just sang to amuse his friend Jeff. “I just sang that first verse,” he laughed.

“She’s a good girl. Loves her mama,” he sang that day to Jeff (and a million times afterward).

The Joke That Made History

Those simple lyrics suggested a form of clarity and amusement, which came across every time the song came on the radio. Tom Petty stumbled into this song, simply trying to amuse a friend, but the song made history. The duo started to laugh together. Eventually, Jeff suggested the chorus, “Free falling…” Then, the producer told him to take up his voice for the chorus, at least “an octave or two.”

Petty added, “So I took my voice up an octave or two, but I couldn’t get the whole word in. So I sang freeee, then free falling. And we both knew at that moment that I’d hit on something pretty good.”

The song literally happened that fast. The next day, he was in the studio recording the hit song. Soon after, it broke the Top 10 on Billboard and was made famous once more in the Cameron Crowe movie, Jerry Maguire.

What is your favorite song from musician Tom Petty?