Relive Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers’ Incredible Super Bowl XLII Halftime Show


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The world lost one of its favorite musicians on Monday, when rock legend Tom Petty passed away at the age of 66.

Fans of Petty will remember him for his forward, road-dust-worn tunes that still make for the perfect soundtrack on a long drive.

Fans of football might know him as the man responsible for one of the best Super Bowl halftime show performances ever—an assertion that would probably be more common had his set at Super Bowl XLII not been overshadowed by arguably the most thrilling Super Bowl ever.

Following the 2007 season, Eli Manning and the New York Giants‘ terrifying pass rush upended Tom Brady and the so-far undefeated New England Patriots.

Unlike many performers in the garish affairs made of halftime shows both before and after, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers didn’t descend from the rafters. He didn’t explode from a cannon. And he definitely didn’t help Janet Jackson flash millions of grateful adolescents.

What he did do is play some great songs—”American Girl,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin’,” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream”—treating his fans and people who’d never listened to him before to 12 minutes of thoughtful music.

Though the Giants, down 7-3 at the time, almost definitely didn’t take in Petty’s performance, it’s hard to ignore how “I Won’t Back Down” applied to the team that started the season 0-2, needed overtime a round earlier to reach the Super Bowl, and would eventually fight back to do the unthinkable against the undefeated Patriots:

Well, I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down
No, I’ll stand my ground
Won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground