Remember When Johnny Cash Covered a Tom Petty Classic?
When Tom Petty died on Monday (Oct. 2) at the age of 66, the legendary rocker left a huge legacy and influence on the music world. Even the iconic Johnny Cash was influenced by Petty, winning a Grammy for an album which featured a cover of one of Petty's most famous songs.
Cash was on the backside of a late-career resurgence when he recorded Petty's "I Won't Back Down" for his American III: Solitary Man album in 2000. The album consisted entirely of covers, including new versions of some of Cash's own songs along with songs from artists as diverse as Petty, Tanya Tucker, U2 and Neil Diamond. Cash won a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for his cover of the Neil Diamond classic "Solitary Man."
Petty wrote "I Won't Back Down" with Jeff Lynne and released it as the lead single from his debut solo album, Full Moon Fever, in 1989. His version reached No. 12 on Billboard's Hot 100 and No. 1 on Billboard's Album Rock Tracks chart, and it went on to become a career single for Petty.
Country Singers React to Tom Petty's Death
Cash's version lowers the key and replaces the steady pulse of muted electric guitars with an acoustic strumming pattern, but the song's defiant central message of standing up proudly to opposing forces despite the odds still rings clear even in the twilight of his career when he sings, "Well I know what's right, I got just one life / In a world that keeps on pushin' me around / But I'll stand my ground, and I won't back down."
Cash used the track to open the album, which turned out to be the next-to-last new project of his life. Cash died on Sept. 12, 2003, after releasing American IV: The Man Comes Around, in November of 2002. Petty died on Oct. 2, 2017 after experiencing cardiac arrest at his Malibu home.
Country Artists Who've Died in 2017