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How Tom Petty’s ‘I Won’t Back Down’ became an anthem after 9/11

Following the deadly attacks of 9/11, in a time when the country came together, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers became a voice to unite behind.

“I Won’t Back Down,” the first single off Petty’s first solo album, “Full Moon River,” began as a song of defiance when Petty and Jeff Lynne penned the lyrics in the late ‘80s”

“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.”

Twelve years later, after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the song was revitalized for the “America: A Tribute to Heroes” benefit concert, a telethon organized by George Clooney that raised more than $150 million for the United Way.

Rock legend Tom Petty pulled off life support after going into cardiac arrest

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed “I Won’t Back Down” at the “America: A Tribute to Heroes” benefit concert just 10 days after the 9/11 attacks.

(Daniel Boczarski/Redferns via Getty Images)

Among the other performers were Bruce Springsteen doing “My City of Ruins,” “Stevie Wonder with “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” Billy Joel doing “New York State of Mind” and Willie Nelson performing “America the Beautiful.”

But it was “I Won’t Back Down,” with its haunting lyrics about perseverence and resistance, that found its way onto the airwaves around the grieving country.

“America: A Tribute to Heroes,” which aired live on all four major networks on Sept. 21, 2001 and was watched by almost 60 million people throughout 210 countries, won a Peabody the following year.

A recording of the show was released on CD and DVD in December 2001.

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tom petty
september 11 terrorist attacks

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