“Learning To Fly” is a song by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It was written in 1991 by Tom Petty and his writing partner Jeff Lynne for the album Into the Great Wide Open. The entire song is based on only four simple chords, (F, C, A minor, and G). It became a top hit for Petty and the Heartbreakers.
Into the Great Wide Open is the eighth studio album by American rock band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, first released in 1991. The album was the band’s last with MCA Records. The album was the second Petty produced with Jeff Lynne after the success of Full Moon Fever.
For the most part, Into the Great Wide Open was warmly received by critics. Dave DiMartino, reviewing the album for Entertainment Weekly said that the album was the closest “classic” album Petty and the band had made in 15 years, saying that the album was a return to their first two albums. He feels that this is due largely to Jeff Lynne and that the songs are better than the ones on Full Moon Fever. Rolling Stone critic Parke Puterbaugh called the album a cross between Full Moon Fever and Damn the Torpedoes, said that it features Petty’s best lyrics and that it is much better than Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough). Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic was less impressed, saying that Into the Great Wide Open sounds too much like Full Moon Fever. He said that the album was “pleasant” but was not his best. In his Consumer Guide, Robert Christgau gave the album a one-star honorable mention, indicating “a worthy effort consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well like”.
The first single “Learning to Fly” was released prior to the album in June 1991, and was a big hit for Tom Petty. The second single, the title track, was released shortly after the albums release and is also one of the bands biggest hits. They were both top 10 singles on various charts. The third single “Out in the Cold” was a minor hit, although it did not achieve the commercial success of the first two. Throughout 1992, four other singles were released; “Makin’ Some Noise”, “All Or Nothin'” “Too Good To Be True” and “King’s Highway”.
The first single, “Learning to Fly”, became the band’s joint longest-running No. 1 single (along with “The Waiting” from 1981’s Hard Promises) on Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, spending six weeks at the top spot. The second single, “Out in the Cold”, also made No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock chart, albeit for two weeks.
The music video for the title song starred Johnny Depp, who had moved to Los Angeles as a teenager to seek rock stardom, along with Gabrielle Anwar, Faye Dunaway, Matt LeBlanc, Terence Trent D’Arby and Chynna Phillips.
“Learning to Fly” was released as the first single from Into the Great Wide Open and reached #28 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also became his most successful single on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart, reaching the top of the chart and remaining at the summit for six weeks. “Learning to Fly” earliest charting was in the United Kingdom, debuting at #65 on June 29. The next week it rose to #46, and stayed on the UK chart for two more weeks before slipping off entirely.