Tom Petty created the soundtrack for solo sing-along driving, just ask Jerry Maguire
Tom Petty's legendary music career dated back to the 1960s and included multiple bands along with solo work. USA TODAY
As with many musicians, Tom Petty's music provides a soundtrack for many fans' lives.
In the case of Petty, who died Monday night at 66, it's a literal soundtrack, too, as the singer and guitar player's tunes have enjoyed a life far beyond concerts, albums (more than 80 million sold) and radio play, elevating many films and TV shows over the past few decades.
Some songs, such as 1989's I Won't Back Down, have become inspirational anthems all by themselves.
Petty earned the ultimate stage, too, as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed at the Super Bowl XLII halftime show, playing American Girl, I Won't Back Down, Free Fallin' and Runnin' Down a Dream.
Petty's songs have graced many soundtracks, starting in the late 1970s all the way up to the present, with King's Highway in this year's Cars 3.
In a couple of classic films, Petty songs are celebrated in the way many fans appreciate tunes: solo sing-along driving.
In 1996's Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise's title-character agent, amped up after landing a big deal, fiddles with the car radio dial to find the right song. He passes up The Rolling Stones — The Rolling Stones! — before finding and singing along joyously to Petty's Free Fallin'.
Free Fallin' was literal street cred, as Petty once said the song was inspired by his own drives along L.A.'s Ventura Boulevard.
In 1991's Oscar-winning The Silence of the Lambs, a young woman (Brooke Smith) sings along to the driving beat of Petty's American Girl just before events take a grim turn.
American Girl helps establish a much more upbeat mood in 1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
The list of Petty songs in film and TV soundtracks is long, with many making multiple appearances, including Free Fallin' (The Sopranos; Cougar Town; Cold Case); American Girl (2015's Ricki and the Flash and Hot Pursuit; Parks and Recreation; and The Goldbergs); I Won't Back Down (2006 animated film, Barnyard; HBO's 2008 film Recount; and the aptly titled 2012 film, Won't Back Down); Don't Do Me Like That (2008's My Best Friend's Girl; 2009's It's Complicated); and Learning to Fly (2005's Elizabethtown; Won't Back Down).
You Don't Know How It Feels was featured in the 2002 Adam Sandler movie, Mr. Deeds.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers recorded the soundtrack for 1996's She's the One, which stars Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz.
Petty also made a memorable appearance on The Simpsons, a sign of pop culture resonance that ranks almost as high as a Super Bowl halftime show.
He joined music greats Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Elvis Costello, Lenny Kravitz and Brian Setzer as they voiced themselves as instructors at a rock fantasy camp that Homer attends in the 2002 episode, 'How I Spent My Strummer Vacation.'
Petty conducted a lyrics workshop that Homer and his friends didn't fully appreciate, a situation often encountered by true artists.