How Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty Created a Timeless Classic: Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around

by Alex Harris

3rd September, 2023

How Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty Created a Timeless Classic: Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around

Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around is a song that has stood the test of time, captivating generations of listeners with its powerful vocals, haunting melody, and poignant lyrics. The song, released on July 8, 1981, is the result of a remarkable collaboration between two legends of rock history, Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty.

In this article, we will explore the story behind this iconic duet, from its origin and production to its impact and legacy.

The Unexpected Birth of a Masterpiece

Contrary to popular belief, Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around was not originally conceived as a duet. The song was written by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell for the Heartbreakers, who had recorded a demo version of it. However, Jimmy Iovine, who was working as a producer for both Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty at the time, had a different vision. He suggested that Nicks should record the song with Petty as a duet, believing that their voices would complement each other perfectly. He also convinced Petty to give up the song to Nicks, who was looking for a hit single for her debut solo album, Bella Donna.

The recording process was not without its challenges. Nicks had to learn the song quickly, as Petty only agreed to spare one day for the session. The two singers had different styles and personalities, which created some tension in the studio. However, they managed to overcome their differences and deliver a stunning performance that captured the essence of the song. The final track also featured the instrumental talents of the Heartbreakers, with the exception of the bass part, which was played by Donald “Duck” Dunn, a renowned session musician.

The Meaning Behind the Lyrics

The song’s lyrics tell the story of a woman who is trapped in a toxic relationship with a man who is dragging her down. She wants to break free from him, but she also feels conflicted and attached to him. The song resonates with anyone who has ever experienced love, heartbreak, and the complexities of human emotions.

The lyrics were inspired by Tom Petty’s own personal life, as he was going through a divorce at the time. He wrote the song as a way of expressing his feelings and coping with his situation. However, he also gave the song a universal appeal, making it relatable to anyone who has ever felt torn between love and freedom.

The Impact and Legacy of the Song

The song was an instant success, reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and becoming one of the most popular songs of 1981. It also marked the beginning of a long-lasting friendship and musical partnership between Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty, who would collaborate on several other projects in the future.

The song’s impact on popular culture was also evident in its promotional video, which was one of the first videos aired on MTV on its launch date of August 1, 1981. The video featured Nicks and Petty performing the song in a dark and smoky room, surrounded by various objects that symbolised their relationship. The video was directed by Cameron Crowe, who would later become a famous filmmaker.

Over the years, the song has remained a staple in Stevie Nicks’s solo concerts, often featuring guest appearances by Tom Petty or other artists. One of the most memorable moments in the song’s history was the 2017 performance by Nicks and Petty at the British Summer Time festival in London, which turned out to be their last collaboration before Petty’s tragic death later that year.


Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around is a musical masterpiece that showcases the talents and chemistry of two icons of rock history. It’s a song that transcends time and genre, capturing the raw emotions and complexities of love and heartbreak. It’s a song that has left an indelible mark on music history and popular culture.

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