In what might be the most iconic combination of powerhouse American songwriters, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to revisit the moment Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Stevie Nicks joined forces in 1986 to perform a sumptuous cover of Dylan’s anthemic number ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’.
The trio came together as 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.
Nicks and Petty’s warm relationship has been often documented, the duo famously 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.
Prior to this meeting, Nicks had spent much of the year touring her 1985 album Rock A Little and was beginning to enjoy solo work more and more, firmly finding her feet on the stage. The singer, who has always struggled with self-confidence, sought assistance from Tom Petty on a number of occasions during her formative years.
Following Petty’s tragic death aged 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, who was going through a turbulent period both personally and professionally following a stint in rehab, had run into an old flame that had left her shaken to her core. Struggling, she turned to and Petty asked for help. 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, to be offered the chance to join two icons as their equal 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 discovered, it’s truly special.
Watch below as Stevie Nicks joins Tom Petty and Bob Dylan on stage to perform ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’.