Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks shared a kinship that was wholly authentic. The two troubadours remained friends throughout the trials and tribulations that life threw in their direction. It was always a moment to savour when they shared the same stage, and this performance of ‘Learning To Fly’ deserves to be devoured.
The two first began their tight-knit friendship 40 years ago, in 1981, through Jimmy Iovine, who Nicks briefly dated at the time after seeking to work with him as a producer following his work with The Heartbreakers. One good thing that did emerge from that liaison’s ashes was Nicks and Tom Petty’s friendship, which dwarfed her relationship with Iovine.
While Nicks worked with Iovine, the Heartbreaker’s supremo would often come around to listen to mixes that the two had been working away on and offer his thoughts. Nicks, at times, struggled to hide her glee at being in the same room as Petty and once hilariously likened hiding in the basement just to hear him in the studio as being “a secret reporter at the White House!”
Petty even penned ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’ for the Fleetwood Mac singer, which would become one of her biggest solo hits, and the two kept their sibling-like relationship alive until Petty died in 2017.
“I just fell in love with his music and his band,” Nicks reflected in Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes. “I would laughingly say to anyone that if I ever got to know Tom Petty and could worm my way into his good graces, if he were ever to ask me to leave Fleetwood Mac and join Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, I’d probably do it — and that was before I even met him.”
Even though Stevie Nicks had achieved more than any aspiring musician could ever dream for with Fleetwood Mac, that didn’t matter when she was in the company of Petty and reverted back to being a super fan.
Although most super fans would settle for a front-row of a concert, Nicks’ accomplishments allowed her to duet with Petty on several occasions. Of all the times they sang together, it’s hard to beat this lucid rendition of ‘Learning To Fly’.
Nicks had to settle to be a backup singer for Petty’s performance, which says all there is to say about the late star’s immense talent. There’s a spinetingling moment in the clip when Petty expertly allows the crowd to sing on his behalf and soaks up the zestful energy that his thousands of fans are throwing in his direction.
If any aspiring musicians are reading this seeking a lesson in controlling the crowd in the palm of your hand, then look no further than this performance from Petty. Only a true master of a craft with thousands of shows under their belt can put on such a nuanced commanding display. It’s easy to understand precisely why Nicks always dreamt of being a Heartbreaker.