Well, she was standing by the highway
In her boots and silver spurs
Gonna hitchhike to the yellow moon
When a Cadillac stopped for her
And she said, "Hey, nice to meet you, are you goin' my way?"
Yeah, that's when it happened
The world caught fire that day

And she went down swingin'
Yeah, she went down swingin'

Well, she was over twenty-one
In trouble with the law
And it didn't faze her none
She called her mother-in-law
And said I need a little money
I knew I could count on you
After that night in Vegas
And the hell that we went through

We went down swingin'
Like Benny Goodman
Yeah, we went down swingin'

Moonlight on the interstate
She was 'cross the Georgia line
Looked out the window feeling great
Yeah, it had to come in time
And she said I'm never goin' back
She said at last I'm free
I wish ma could see me now, she'd be so proud of me

She went down swingin'
Like Glenn Miller
Yeah, she went down swingin'
Like Tommy Dorsey
Yeah, she went down swingin'
Like Sammy Davis
She went down swingin'
Like Sonny Liston


Lyrics submitted by oofus

Swingin' Lyrics as written by Tom Petty

Lyrics © Adria K Music

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Swingin' song meanings
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6 Comments

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  • 0
    General Commenti took this song literaly a young women hitchhiking to get away
    tweek420on August 07, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe first time I heard this song, it was really emotional to me because I thought it could be taken as the girl actually trying to hitchhike away, and then she is murdered by the guy that picks her up. However, that is just the movie that played in my head upon first hearing the lyrics...if you look at them written out it seems more logical that the girl worked in Vegas or something and always wanted out of her situation, and then finally does something about it. However, the last verse saying how she went down swingin' made me think that maybe she did die, just not without a fight. If you put that into context, then the line "And she said I'm never goin' back, she said at last I'm free, I wish ma could see me now, she'd be so proud of me" could kinda bring tears to your eyes. Great song with simple chords. A Tom Petty classic. CRAFT AND CONSISTENCY!
    sglasson October 10, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwonderful background vocals by Howie Epstein, former bass player of the Heartbreakers who died of a heroin overdose in 2003. RIP Howie
    cmckinleyon January 07, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think it's also Petty's ode to some great musicians: Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey.
    Morty72on May 17, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOutstanding and simple guitar solo.
    uchecarbonon March 18, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTough nut to crack. I think the song is ultimately about the loss of a dream because life happens sometimes. The girl in the song is trying to make something of herself, probably as a performer or singer of some kind due to all the swing-band name drops in the song. She begins hitchhiking near a highway, probably because her car broke down, which puts her at a very low point. She's been knocked down once already. But she didn't give up. If she can't drive to where she's going (to take her shot at her dream) then she'll hitch.

    The young woman has been through some trying times already, despite her young age. Some kind of "hell" she experienced in Vegas... it doesn't matter what it is, just that in that case, she didn't go through it alone, her mother in law was with her. That's a bit representative too, because sometimes, our bad times are on display for others to see.

    The woman finally gets to where she's going and takes her shot. But it doesn't work out how she wants. We know that because of the last name that's dropped: Sonny Liston. All the other name drops were swing band leaders or musicians. This is how we are supposed to understand that she's trying to get into some kind of performing arts as a singer or musician, even though that's just symbolic of whatever it is that's in your dreams. "She went down swingin'" like all these famous swing band leaders, most of whom died doing what they loved. Except for Sonny Liston.

    Liston was a boxer, and famously got his *** handed to him by a young Muhammad Ali (when he was still going by the name Cassius Clay). Ali knocked Liston out cold with one punch. So if this young woman went down swinging like all these swing band leaders, that just means she was dedicated to her art like they were. But to go down swingin' like Sonny Liston means you lost pretty hard, which is what Liston is now famous for. You didn't accomplish what you set out to do. But you get up, and you try again, or you move on to something else.

    So she took her shot, and she went down... swingin'.
    MetalHeadSJon August 27, 2021   Link

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