Leave Virginia Alone

Album: Wildflowers & All the Rest (2020)

Songfacts®:

  • Tom Petty wrote "Leave Virginia Alone" in 1993 for his 1994 album Wildflowers, but it didn't make the cut, so he gave the song to Rod Stewart, who included it on his 1995 album A Spanner In The Works.

    Petty's version finally appeared in 2020 (three years after his death) when it was included on an expanded edition of the album called Wildflowers & All The Rest, and released as the first single. It's one of five songs on the set that had not been previously released.
  • Virginia in this song is a girl, not the state (Train used the name in their 1998 song "Meet Virginia"). Petty leaves her story open to interpretation, but we can tell she's a mercurial, headstrong sort. It appears she was a shining star whose light has since dimmed, and Petty is asking for empathy:

    Leave Virginia alone
    She's not like you and me


    Petty was very good at drawing listeners into story songs like this one. "American Girl" is another one where he conjures up an intriguing protagonist and lets us fill in the blanks.
  • Tom Petty's daughter, Adria Petty, co-directed the video along with Mark Seliger. It stars Casimere Jollette of the Netflix series Tiny Pretty Things as Virginia. Adria didn't want to flesh out too much of the character in the video, so the storyline is somewhat vague. We see Virginia getting chased out of town, doing a photo shoot, and doing some impressive aerial acrobatics.

    Seliger is an acclaimed photographer who shot Tom Petty for the cover of Rolling Stone in 1995.
  • Petty's band, The Heartbreakers, played on this and the other songs from the Wildflowers sessions even though it was billed as a Tom Petty solo album. Petty did something similar in 1989 when he released Full Moon Fever, a solo album with contributions from his band. A key player on both albums is guitarist Mike Campbell, who is credited as a co-producer. On Wildflowers, Rick Rubin is an additional producer along with Campbell and Petty.

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