Gentle and plaintive, “Wildflowers” came to Tom Petty in a single burst of creativity, as he described it in an interview:
I just took a deep breath and it came out. The whole song. Stream of consciousness: words, music, chords. Finished it. I mean, I just played it into a tape recorder, and I played the whole song, and I never played it again. I actually only spent three and a half minutes on that whole song. So I’d come back for days playing that tape, thinking there must be something wrong here because this just came too easy. And then I realized that there’s probably nothing wrong at all.
The title track to a classic album, “Wildflowers” has become one of Petty’s most beloved songs. The album featured other amazing songs, such as “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” “Crawling Back to You,” “Cabin Down Below,” “Good to Be King,” and “You Wreck Me.”
“Wildflowers” was never released as a single, but has reached the Top 20 on multiple charts over the years — after its initial release, and again in 2020 when it was re-released as part of Wildflowers & All the Rest, a retrospective of this career-defining album. It is Petty’s fourth-most streamed song on Spotify.
The lyrics are remarkable in their grace and beauty, with perhaps the final chorus the one we most often bring to mind:
You belong among the wildflowers,
You belong somewhere close to me.
Far away from your trouble and worry,
You belong somewhere you feel free.
This profound measure of hope — belonging somewhere you feel free — is a deeply human aspiration, put into the simplest terms atop lovely music. It’s sheer perfection for a songwriter.
Written in F with a gentle beat of 87 bpm, the song sparkles from the start, with acoustic guitars chiming beneath Petty’s heartfelt vocals. Played live, gentle piano accompaniments only add to the sheen and beauty. A complicated chord progression transitions between parts, clearing the air each time.