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Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - American Girl

Tom petty & the heartbreakers - american girl
Well, she was an American girl,
Raised on promises
She couldn't help thinking that there was a little more to life
Somewhere else
After all it was a great big world
With lots of places to run to
And if she had to die
Tryin', she
Had one little promise she was gonna keep
Chorus:
Oh yeah, alright,
Take it easy, baby
Make it last all night
She was an American girl.
Well, it was kind of cold that night,
She stood alone on the balcony
Yeah, she could hear the cars roll by,
Out on four forty one like
Waves crashing on the beach,
And for one des'rate moment there
He crept back in her memory
God, it's so painful when something that's so close
Is still so far out of reach
Chorus

"American Girl" is the second single from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' self-titled debut album. The single did not chart in the U.S., but in the UK it peaked at #40 the week ending August 27, 1977. Due to lyrics mentioning cars rolling by "out on 441" and a desperate girl on a balcony, the song was rumored to have been written about a girl who committed suicide by jumping from the Beaty Towers dormitory at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where Tom Petty grew up. (U.S. Route 441 runs along the university campus right beside Beaty Towers.) Carl Van Ness, the University of Florida's official historian, believes that a student committed suicide by jumping from one of the Beaty Towers during the late '60s or early '70s, when Tom Petty still lived in Gainesville. However, the dorm does not have balconies. When asked directly about the story in the book Conversations With Tom Petty, Petty responded: Urban legend. It's become a huge urban myth down in Florida. That's just not at all true. The song has nothing to do with that. But that story really gets around... They've really got the whole story. I've even seen magazine articles about that story. 'Is it true or isn't it true?' They could have just called me and found out it wasn't true. In the same interview, Petty says that he wrote the song while living in California: I don't remember exactly. I was living in an apartment where I was right by the freeway. And the cars would go by. In Encino, near Leon Russell's house. And I remember thinking that that sounded like the ocean to me. That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by. I think that must have inspired the lyric. The opening lines, "Well she was an American Girl, Raised on promises" may have been influenced by a similar line from Francis Ford Coppola's directorial debut, "Dementia 13", a 1963 horror flick set in Ireland in which the character Louise Haloran, played by Luana Anders, has the line, "The mood around this place isn't good for her. Especially an American girl. You can tell she's been raised on promises." Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell told Songfacts about American Girl: "We used to have people come up to us and tell us they thought it was about suicide because of the one line about 'if she had to die,' but what they didn't get was, the whole line is 'if she had to die trying.' Some people take it literally and out of context. To me it's just a really beautiful love song. It does have some Florida imagery."

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