Tom Petty by the Numbers: A 'Breakdown' of 40 Years of Hits
Tom Petty made his Billboard chart debut in September 1977, alongside his backing band The Heartbreakers, when their self-titled first album opened at No. 190 on the Billboard 200. The debut launched an impressive career spanning four decades, with numerous feats and Billboard chart achievements.
Up until his death on Monday (Oct. 2) at age 66, Petty notched 22 entries on the Billboard 200 and dozens of hits on Billboard’s rock and pop charts.
In honor of the late great rock icon, let’s take a look back at Petty’s career, by the numbers, on Billboard’s charts:
28: Petty scored a record 28 top 10 hits on the Mainstream Rock Songs airplay chart, more than any other act in the chart’s 36-year history. (He logged his top 10s between 1981 and 1999.) The act with the second-most top 10s, Van Halen, has 26. Additionally, Petty notched five top 10 hits as a member of the super group Traveling Wilburys.
10: Of Petty’s 28 top 10 hits on the Mainstream Rock airplay chart, 10 hit No. 1. Only three acts in the chart’s 36-year history have more No. 1s: Van Halen (13), Three Days Grace (12) and Shinedown (11). He first hit No. 1 with “The Waiting” in 1981, and his final No. 1 during his lifetime, “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” topped the list in 1994.
3: The peak position of Petty’s highest-charting song on the Billboard Hot 100, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” with Stevie Nicks in 1981. Petty never reached the summit of the Hot 100, but he reached the top 10 three times, with “Don’t Do Me Like That” in 1980 (No. 10 peak), then “Draggin’” and then “Free Fallin’” in 1990 (No. 7).
27: From 1977’s “Breakdown” to 2006’s “Saving Grace,” Petty scored 27 total entries on the Hot 100. "Breakdown" was his both his first Hot 100 hit, and first top 40 hit, peaking at No. 40. Eight entries were unaccompanied (billed as just “Tom Petty”), while the remaining 19 were with The Heartbreakers. Petty scored two additional Hot 100 hits with the Traveling Wilburys.
11.9 million: Tom Petty’s songs sold 11.9 million digital song downloads in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music, through Sept. 28. (That sum combines both his solo efforts and work with The Heartbreakers.) Petty also sold 1 million digital tracks with the Traveling Wilburys and 116,000 with the band Mudcrutch.
22: Tom Petty earned 22 entries on the Billboard 200 albums chart, 12 of which hit the chart’s top 10. While most of his albums were with The Heartbreakers, Petty charted three entries—1989’s Full Moon Fever (No. 3 peak), 1994’s Wildflowers (No. 8) and 2006’s Highway Companion (No. 4)—as a solo act. Petty also notched three other charting albums with the Wilbury's (two of which hit the top 10) and two more with Mudcrutch (both hit the top 10).
1: Perhaps surprisingly, Petty only topped the Billboard 200 once, with his final full-length set Hypnotic Eye in 2014. The album spent one week atop the chart dated Aug. 16 on the strength of 131,000 equivalent album units earned in its first week.
3: Since the Top Rock Albums chart's inception in 2006, Petty notched three No. 1 titles: Highway Companion in 2006, Mojo in 2010 and Hypnotic Eye in 2014. Each album spent one week atop the ranking.
31.5 million: Certified equivalent album units by the Recording Industry Association of America. 15 of Petty’s albums were certified Gold by the RIAA. Of those Gold sets, eight reached Platinum status, and one -- his Greatest Hits album with The Heartbreakers -- was certified Diamond.
20.3 million: In total, Tom Petty’s albums — both solo and with The Heartbreakers — have sold 20.2 million copies in the U.S. through Sept. 28, according to Nielsen Music, since the company started tracking sales in 1991. Petty’s best-selling studio album of the Nielsen era, Wildflowers, sold 3.2 million copies. It’s also worth noting that Petty sold 1.2 million copies as a member of Traveling Wilburys and 250,000 as a member of Mudcrutch.
$60,000,000: The total gross of Petty's 40th Anniversary Tour, which just ended last week and ran from April through September. Attendance for the tour topped 600,000.