Relive Some of the Best Tom Petty Cover Songs By Musicians Who Revered Him

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Tom Petty
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for J/P HRO

Good cover songs tell you a lot, not just about the person taking on the tunes but the original artist who created them.

It takes a lot of chutzpah to out your own spin on music that has hit the zeitgeist, mega-hits that everyone knows and loves, but often, it's to show respect for the musicians who've come before. It's about performers taking on the music that has touched their souls, affected the way they craft their own songs or inspired them to pursue musical careers when most would say that's a crazy thing to do. It's honoring those who've come before you.

Rock music icon and American legend Tom Petty -- who died Monday night at age 66 -- is one of those artists whose music has been covered time and time again. His music has seamlessly crossed generations, going to the core of what it means to be an American guy and girl figuring out their place in this world, be it 40 years ago or today.

When news initially broke of Petty's cardiac arrest on Monday afternoon, John Mayer took to Twitter to reminisce about one of his icons.

"I loved Tom Petty and I covered his songs because I wanted [to] know what it felt like to fly. 'you belong somewhere you feel free,'" the "In the Blood" singer shared.

During a concert at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles in 2008, Mayer covered a gorgeous, harmony-filled acoustic version of Petty's iconic "Free Fallin'," later releasing an official music video of his live version of the classic. 

Elle King stayed pretty true to Petty's "American Girl" for the Hot Pursuit soundtrack, though she did add her signature rock-twang to it.

The "America's Sweetheart" singer gave ET the first listen of the cover before it hit iTunes in 2015, admitting that "it was really hard" to take on such a classic. "Normally I put my own spin on covers but I wanted to stay true to the original. It was tough," she said. "But a great challenge none the less."
 

That same year, the Goo Goo Dolls shared their live version of "American Girl" from 2001's The Concert for New York City on their greatest hits album, Goo Goo Dolls: Vol. 2. Plenty of other musicians have also covered the 1976 hit, with most of them staying very true to the original, including Taylor Swift, Matthew Sweet, Def Leppard and American Idol winner Nick Fradiani.

Sweet also teamed up with Susanna Hoffs for 2009's Under the Covers: Vol. 2, which included their version of Petty's "Here Comes My Girl."

And while Melissa Etheridge's 2005 cover of "Refugee" is impressive, we can't forget that The Chipmunks also covered the twenty-something angst anthem for their 1980 album, Chipmunk Punk.

An icon in her own right, Grace Jones recorded a reggae-version of "Breakdown," with Petty himself writing a third verse just for her. The Replacements also covered the track from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' debut for their 1985 live album, while Foo Fighters, Gary Allan and Christina Perri have all covered the track many times during their tours.

The Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl even got to play with the Heartbreakers on Saturday Night Live in 1994 -- after Petty had fired his drummer, Stan Lynch -- keeping the beat on "You Don't Know How It Feels" and "Honey Bee."

"I even discussed with Dave about joining the band," Petty said, according to Rolling Stone. "And he wanted to, but he had his own solo thing developing at the time, the Foo Fighters. And, of course, he would rather have done that."

Punk rockers The Gaslight Anthem have always given off very Petty and Bruce Spingsteen vibes, so it's not a big surprise that they chose to cover "You Got Lucky" on the deluxe version of their 2012 album, Handwritten.

And we can only imagine that one of the biggest honors of all is having Johnny Cash cover one of your songs, which is exactly what happened in 1996, when the Man in Black put his own spin on "Southern Accents," off Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' 1985 album of the same name.

Petty had a major impact on music, and his legacy will live on in both his 13 studio albums with the Heartbreakers and his three solo albums, but also by those paying homage to him.