Learning to Fly (1991) – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

I remember in the weeks following Tom Petty’s sudden departure from this great play we call life; I heard Bob Dylan paying tribute to Petty singing today’s featured song Learning to Fly. This song follows the same basic 4 chord structure throughout, but it is deceptively meaningful. If Bob hadn’t covered it just this once on October 21, 2017 (setlist) in Broomfield, Colorado, this song most likely would have flown under my radar.
Petty and Bob were close companions since they toured together in the 80’s and were part of the wildly successful, but short-lived supergroup – The Traveling Wilburys.

Learning to Fly was written in 1991 by Tom Petty and his writing partner Jeff Lynne – another member of the Wilburys. The song was released on The Heartbreakers eighth studio album, Into the Great Wide Open. Learning to Fly became a top hit for Petty and the Heartbreakers, topping the US Album Rock Tracks chart and peaking at number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

[Verse 3]
Well, some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I’ve started out for God knows where
I guess I’ll know when I get there

I’m learning to fly around the clouds
But what goes up (Learning to fly)
Must come down

This is the second Tom Petty song to feature here, after his Free Fallin‘ classic. It’s interesting to read in the comments below how people have reflected on Learning to Fly and / or applied it to their lives. Some pilots recalled how this song throws them back to when they literally learn’t to fly. Others have mentioned how the song’s meaning seems appropriate to learning to live life sober. Whatever the significance of the song, it is evident presents feelings of nostalgia or more directly to current circumstances people find themselves.

1. Learning to Fly (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song) – Wikipedia

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Music
5 comments on “Learning to Fly (1991) – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  1. This sounds like a song the Traveling Wilbury’s would sing, eh? I like this song a lot.

  2. Badfinger (Max) says:

    I bought this album when it came out and this song is the reason…one of my favorites by Petty

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