The Best Tom Petty Songs to Perform at Karaoke

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Photo: Kirk West/Getty Images

There’s so much that can be said about Tom Petty, one of the virtuosos of modern American music, in light of his untimely death earlier this week at the age of 66. You can read some of that writing here, but now let’s honor that wonderful Florida gent through some of his most enjoyable songs. Songs that make you rock. Songs that make you groove. Songs that are perfect for you to croon at a karaoke outing. Next time you head out after dark to test your vocal stylings, here are eight great Petty options.

8. “You Wreck Me” (1994)

Perfect for: Getting a little frisky.
Best lyric for interpretive dance: When the beat slows down around the “I’ll be the boy in the corduroy pants” bridge. Fill it in with your preferred shimmy.
Best lyric for crowd participation: “Ohhhhh, yeahhhhh, you wreck me, baby / You break me in two!”

7. “Yer So Bad” (1989)

Perfect for: Bringing the energy down a notch while showing off the extent of your Petty repertoire.
Best lyric for interpretive dance: Swaying to “but noooot meeee baaaaaby, I’ve got youuuuu to saaaaaave meeeeee.”
Best lyric for crowd participation: Responding to “in a world gone mad” with “YER SO BAD!”

6. “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” (1993)

Perfect for: Keeping those chill vibes going.
Best lyric for interpretive dance: Pretending to mimic all of the harmonica solos. There are a lot of harmonica solos.
Best lyric for crowd participation: The increasing importance of yelling “YOU GOT TO PUT ON THAT PARTY DRESS.”

5. “Runnin’ Down a Dream” (1989)

Perfect for: Simultaneously encouraging people to follow their dreams and partake in some physical activity.
Best lyric for interpretive dance: The epic, minute-long guitar solo that ends the song. Go wild.
Best lyric for crowd participation: The synchronized clapping in-between “yeah, runnin’ down a dream” and “that never would come to me.”

4. “I Won’t Back Down” (1989)

Perfect for: Empowering the crowd to the highest of your abilities.
Best lyric for interpretive dance: “Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around / And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down.”
Best lyric for crowd participation: Every time the background singers croon “I won’t back down” in the chorus. Two or three times per round!

3. “American Girl” (1976)

Perfect for: Bringing out your patriotic and female-loving spirit.
Best lyric for interpretive dance: That funky instrumental break in the middle of the song. Bop around and have some fun, but remember to include the low-key “ah”s.
Best lyric for crowd participation: The double “make it last-make it last all night!” in the chorus.

2. “Refugee” (1980)

Perfect for: Getting deep, baby!
Best lyric for interpretive dance: Dramatically pointing at your fellow karaoke-goers while singing sentiments like “you believe what you want to believe, you see” and “tell me why you want to lay there, revel in your abandon.”
Best lyric for crowd participation: Yelling “HONEY!” before the quieter “it don’t make no difference to me, baby” in the pre-chorus.

1. “Free Fallin’” (1989)

Perfect for: Anything. Literally anything.
Best lyric for interpretive dance: “I wanna glide down over Mulholland / I wanna write her name in the sky. I’m gonna free fall out into nothin’ / Gonna leave this world for a while.” Just let the music guide you.
Best lyric for crowd participation: Repeatedly singing “free fallin, I’mma free fallin’” right before the bridge kicks in.

The Best Tom Petty Songs to Perform at Karaoke