Free Fallin'

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"Free Fallin'"
Single by Tom Petty
from the album Full Moon Fever
  • "Down the Line"
  • "Love Is a Long Road"
  • "Free Fallin'" (live)
ReleasedOctober 27, 1989 (1989-10-27)
GenreHeartland rock[1]
Tom Petty singles chronology
"Runnin' Down a Dream"
"Free Fallin'"
"A Face in the Crowd"
Music video
"Free Fallin'" on YouTube

"Free Fallin'" is the opening track from Tom Petty's debut solo album, Full Moon Fever (1989). The song was written by Petty and his writing partner for the album, Jeff Lynne, and features Lynne on backing vocals and bass guitar. The duo wrote and recorded the single in two days, making it the first song completed for Full Moon Fever.

"Free Fallin'" is one of Petty's most famous tracks as well as his longest-charting.[2] It peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in January 1990. Petty and The Heartbreakers performed the song at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1989, with Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin, and at the February 2008 Super Bowl XLII Halftime Show.[3] The song is ranked No. 179 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was featured in the film Jerry Maguire (1996) and The Sopranos episode 2.13, "Funhouse" (2000). Lou Reed selected the song as one of his "picks of 1989".[4] The song was #2 on the Spotify Global Viral 50 following the death of Petty.[5]

Los Angeles-area references[edit]

The song's lyrics make references to the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, including:

  • "The Valley" – colloquially name for the San Fernando Valley
  • Reseda – a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley
  • 101 "Ventura" Freeway – the lyrics mention "a freeway runnin' through the yard" of the subject's Reseda home - putatively the 101 Freeway, which has an exit for Reseda Boulevard, albeit in the higher-income neighborhood of Tarzana
  • Ventura Boulevard – a primary east-west thoroughfare that runs along the southern border of the San Fernando Valley
  • "Mulholland" – a reference to Mulholland Drive, a road that follows the ridgeline of the eastern Santa Monica Mountains and the Hollywood Hills between the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood

Development and meaning[edit]

Petty explained in an interview with Billboard magazine that he and Jeff Lynne were sitting around trying to come up with a song, and Lynne got him to say "free falling". The next day they went and recorded the song. He didn't write it about any person, but instead what he saw on his frequent drives along Ventura Boulevard.[6]


  • Tom Petty – lead vocals, 12-string acoustic guitar
  • Mike Campbell – electric guitar, 6-string acoustic guitar, 12-string electric guitar
  • Jeff Lynne – backing vocals, bass guitar
  • Phil Jones – drums

Track listings[edit]

US 7" / Cassette
1."Free Fallin'"4:14
2."Down the Line"
Total length:7:08
UK 7"
1."Free Fallin'"
  • Petty
  • Lynne
2."Love Is a Long Road"
  • Petty
  • Campbell
Total length:8:20
UK 12" / CD
1."Free Fallin'"
  • Petty
  • Lynne
2."Love Is a Long Road"
  • Petty
  • Campbell
3."Free Fallin'" (live)
  • Petty
  • Lynne

Charts and certifications[edit]

Cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, Troy L. "250 greatest Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Songs: Part 2 (#200-151)". Retrieved October 5, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 188.
  3. ^ "Topic Galleries". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on February 8, 2008.
  4. ^ Rolling Stone, March 8, 1990
  5. ^ "Global Viral 50". Spotify Charts. Archived from the original on October 7, 2017. Retrieved October 7, 2017.
  6. ^ Cathy Applefeld Olson (June 7, 2017). "Tom Petty Originally Wrote 'Free Fallin'' Just to Make Jeff Lynne Laugh". Billboard. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  7. ^ "ARIA Chart Watch #441". auspOp. October 7, 2017. Retrieved October 7, 2017.
  8. ^ "Tom Petty Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard.
  9. ^ " – Tom Petty – Free Fallin'" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  10. ^ " – Tom Petty – Free Fallin'". Top 40 Singles.
  11. ^ " – Tom Petty – Free Fallin'". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved October 11, 2017.
  12. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  13. ^ "Tom Petty Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  14. ^ "Tom Petty Chart History (Alternative Songs)". Billboard.
  15. ^ "Top 100 Hit Tracks of 1990". RPM. Retrieved November 26, 2017.
  16. '^ "British single certifications – Tom Petty – Free Fallin'". British Phonographic Industry. Select singles in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Free Fallin in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  17. ^ Needham, Lucy; Newman, Vicki; Shenton, Zoe (October 3, 2017). "Emotional moment Coldplay audience stand in absolute silence to remember victims of Las Vegas shooting - before launching into Tom Petty tribute song". Mirror. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  18. ^ Kreps, Daniel (October 7, 2017). "See Coldplay, James Corden Sing Tom Petty's 'Free Fallin' at Rose Bowl". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 8, 2017.

External links[edit]