“Free Fallin,” by Tom Petty in his album Full Moon Fever is a ballad about a guy who loses a girl whom he doesn’t realize he misses. Basically, the guy in the song was into a good hearted girl who he treated poorly.
She’s a good girl, loves her mama
Loves Jesus and America too
She’s a good girl, crazy ’bout Elvis
Loves horses and her boyfriend too
It’s a long day, livin’ in Reseda
There’s a freeway, runnin’ through the yard
Petty describes a few traits of the girl he is singing about, and as listeners, we can assume that these are all traits he believes are good. From the beginning of the song, Petty shows interest in the girl, despite continuing by clearly putting her off.
And I’m a bad boy, ’cause I don’t even miss her
I’m a bad boy for breakin’ her heart
He creates a difference between himself and the girl by describing himself as a “bad boy” and describing the girl as a “good girl.”
And I’m free, free fallin’
Yeah I’m free, free fallin’
The chorus describes the narrator free falling, which I think is the narrator expressing his regret for treating the girl poorly and disregarding her.
All the vampires, walkin’ through the valley
Move west down Ventura Boulevard
And all the bad boys are standing in the shadows
And the good girls are home with broken hearts
In the next verse, Petty references Ventura Boulevard, which is a road that runs through Los Angeles. The use of allusion creates an image of hungover men, or vampires, walking home on a road. This allusion contributes to the theme of regret that is emphasized throughout the song.
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
Petty makes another reference to a road in Los Angeles, but instead of Ventura Blvd, he speaks of Mulholland Drive, another street that serves as a border between LA and other parts of the county.
Petty finishes the song with a harmonized repetition of the refrain that repeats a couple times. Overall the acoustic chords combined with Petty’s smooth vocals make this song great, and the overarching theme of regret of mistakes creates a powerful message in the song.