Stevie Nicks joins Tom Petty and Bob Dylan to perform ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ in 1986
This may well be our most favourite trio of American troubadours and its one that has produced some searing performances in their time. We’re talking about the moment Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Stevie Nicks joined forces at a special gig in 1986 to perform a sumptuous cover of Dylan’s anthemic number ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’.
The trio was together as former Fleetwood Mac singer, Stevie Nicks joined the esteemed Bob Dylan and the high-flying Tom Petty for their co-headlining string of dates known as the True Confessions Tour. Jumping in on backing vocals for the odd occasion, the real focus was on the two rock-folk legends at the front. Yet on a special night in Sydney, Australia in 1986 all three would come together to perform a very special cover which knocked our socks off.
Nicks and Petty’s warm relationship has been often documented, the duo helping each other throughout their careers, but Dylan was equally enamoured with the rocker. Dylan was eternally grateful for the inclusion on the tour, explaining: “Tom was at the top of his game and I was at the bottom of mine,” while writing in his 2004 book Chronicles.
As noted in the 2005 Paul Zollo book Conversations With Tom Petty, the singer felt differently to Dylan: “There was never a night when the audiences weren’t incredibly ecstatic about the whole thing,” he said. Most nights the pair shared the stage for several songs including Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ and on some special performances, they were even joined by the mercurial singer of Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks. We’re looking back at one of those moments.
Nicks had spent much of the year touring her 1985 album Rock A Little and was beginning to enjoy her solo work more and more, firmly finding her feet on the stage. The singer has always struggled with self-confidence and it’s something her friend, Tom Petty, was keen to get out of her.
Following Petty’s tragic death aged just 66 in 2017, Nicks sat down with Rolling Stone and revealed the life-changing stern advice that he handed her back in 1994. The Fleetwood Mac member was going through a turbulent period both personally and professionally following a stint in rehab, she had run into an old flame which had left her shaken to her core and asked Petty to help her create art out of this less than pleasant experience.
Nicks recalled: “I asked Tom if he would help me write a song. And he said, “No. You are one of the premier songwriters of all time. You don’t need me to write a song for you.” He added: “Just go to your piano and write a good song. You can do that.”
Back to 1986 and despite her own star power and draw, to be offered the chance to join these legends as their equal must’ve appealed to her deeply. Not only was Nicks there to match up to the duo but with her first notes, she upstages them, delivering a powerful vocal on the emotionally charged song.
While both Petty and Dylan are famed songwriters and excellent composers their positions as singers are highly contested in comparison to their stage-mate Stevie Nicks. The singer delivers an epic performance accompanied by two of the most brilliant artists America has ever created, it’s truly special. This performance was confirmation that she should join them on that pedestal.
Watch below as Stevie Nicks joins Tom Petty and Bob Dylan on stage to perform ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’.