Runnin' Down a Dream

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"Runnin' Down a Dream"
TP - Runnin Down a Dream single.jpg
Single by Tom Petty
from the album Full Moon Fever
B-side "Alright For Now"
"Down the Line" (12" & CD only)
Released July 1989
Format 7", cassette,
12" & CD (UK only)
Recorded 1987-1988
Length 4:25
Label MCA
Songwriter(s) Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Mike Campbell
Producer(s) Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Mike Campbell
Tom Petty singles chronology
"I Won't Back Down"
"Runnin' Down a Dream"
"Free Fallin'"

"I Won't Back Down"
"Runnin' Down a Dream"
"Free Fallin'"

"Runnin' Down a Dream" is a song co-written and recorded by Tom Petty. It was released in July 1989 as the second single from his first solo album Full Moon Fever. "Runnin' Down a Dream" achieved reasonable chart success, reaching number 23 both in Canada and on the US Billboard Hot 100 and the top of the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart.[1] It has since garnered significant airplay on classic rock stations, and lent its name to the 2007 documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Lyrics and music[edit]

The song was co-written by Mike Campbell, along with Petty and Jeff Lynne. It was a nod to Petty's musical roots, with the lyric "me and Del were singin' 'Little Runaway'" making reference to Del Shannon and "Runaway".

The song uses E major as a tonic, but makes ample use of chords outside that key, such as D, G, and C major chords. Some passages (including the extended outro) use a pedal point of E in the bass, while changing chords from E major to C and D major chords above it. The repeating fuzz guitar riff, using the notes B, B♭, A, G, and E, lacks only a D to complete the hexatonic E blues scale.[2]

Music video[edit]

The music video for "Runnin' Down a Dream", directed by Jim Lenahan, featured animation, based on several episodes of the classic comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay, featuring a drawing style reminiscent of McCay's and showing Petty and a character who resembles Flip travelling through Slumberland. The 1933 film King Kong is also briefly referenced when Petty, atop the Chrysler Building, attempts to swat at attacking oversized mosquitoes, much like Kong swatting at the biplanes in the film.


Chart (1989) Peak
Australia ARIA Singles Chart[3] 68
Canadian RPM Top Singles 23
UK Singles Chart 55
US Billboard Album Rock Tracks 1
US Billboard Hot 100 23

Cover versions[edit]

Horror punk/metal artist Wednesday 13 covered the song on his Bloodwork EP.

In their 2013 summer tour, Dave Matthews Band covered the song.[4]

The 2016 Karma to Burn EP Mountain Czar features the song, retitled "Uccidendo Un Sogno," sung in Italian with guest vocalist Stefanie Savy.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

It was used on the soundtrack for the videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and was the official theme song of the 2006 NBA Finals as well as the 2008 NBA Finals. The song was also used by ABC in the 2010 NBA Finals when the presentation of the game reached the end of the third quarter and was phased out into a commercial break. The song is playable in Guitar Hero 5 and was released as downloadable content for Rock Band 2; in Guitar Hero 5 the master track is used.[6] It closed Petty and the Heartbreakers' performance at the February 2008 Super Bowl XLII Halftime Show,[7] encoda'ed with a long Mike Campbell guitar solo.[7] The next morning, following the Patriots loss to the Giants, which ended their chance at perfection, the song was used during Super Bowl highlights on ESPN. It was also used in promotional segments of the 2008 MLB World Series. In 2011, the song was included in Tom Hanks's film Larry Crowne and on its soundtrack.[8] In the animated television series King of the Hill episode "Arlen City Bomber", Lucky Kleinschmidt (voiced by Tom Petty) says "I'm gonna help you run down that dream, Bobby" of getting Bobby a freshly made corn chip off the production line. The song was used in the Family Guy episode The Book of Joe when Brian achieves his "runner's high".


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 490.
  2. ^ Tom Petty, Full Moon Fever (songbook) C.P.P. Belwin, Inc.; First Edition (1989) ASIN B0013GBQB2
  3. ^ "25 Years Ago This Week: September 10, 1989". Retrieved September 24, 2015. 
  4. ^ Video on YouTube
  5. ^ "Karma to Burn: Band". Retrieved February 13, 2016. 
  6. ^ Vince Darcangelo (2006-06-22). "B-ball blues". Boulder Weekly. Archived from the original on 2009-11-10. Retrieved 2008-03-02. 
  7. ^ a b Ann Donahue (2008-02-03). "Super Bowl XLII Halftime Recap". Adweek. Retrieved 2008-03-02. 
  8. ^ "iTunes Store". Retrieved July 5, 2011. 


ZZ Ward Version[edit]

The song will be 2018 theme for NASCAR on NBC.

External links[edit]