What does Learning to Fly mean?

Tom Petty: Learning to Fly Meaning

Album cover for Learning to Fly album cover

Song Released: 1991

Learning to Fly Lyrics

Well I started out down a dirty r oad
Started out all alone
And the sun went down as I crossed the hill
The town lit up the world got still

I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings
Comin’ down is the hardest thing

Well the good old...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    Nov 10th 2017 !⃝

    I think it's about life. First verse I interpret as get a rough start to life. Broken family, a poor choice, financial situation, ect. You feel all alone, you against the world. Then there's a moment when you cross a point in your life where it's finally in your power to live how you want too (18) but you're not sure how to go about it. So you're learning how to create your life the way you want to. But getting to that point is the hardest thing. A dream/goal is constantly evolving and we will have set backs so reaching this dream or goal is never ending. The second and third verse I interpret as saying if you give life a chance to break you it will. Everything could fall apart. So we have to keep pushing on and to keep learning.


    #2 top rated interpretation:
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    Apr 18th 2005 !⃝

    This song is about achieving a huge goal. The learning to fly without wings means learning to do something you\'ve never done before and you\'re not sure if you\'re even prepared to do.

    As with anything great, coming back down is always the hardest part.

    Great song.


    #3 top rated interpretation:
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    May 25th 2009 !⃝

    This song has nothing to do with drugs. its all about growing up and experiencing things that you aren't ready for, like learning to fly without wings

  4. anonymous
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    Aug 18th 2020 !⃝

    I think its about drugs. When he wrote it, that was around the time he got divorced and started doing Heroin. Songs about going up into the sky are frequently about getting high, " Come down off your throne and leave your body alone " from Can't Find My Way Homw. If you're on a throne, you're high up. I think Petty said it wasn't about drugs because he knew he was a role model. Who would want to fly without wings ? They knew it would most likely end badly. The hardest part is coming down=withdrwal. Went over the hill=finally tried it. The city lit up. The euphoria when it kicks in. Disclaimer: Never tried drugs in my life ( except a toke every 5 yrs ).

  5. anonymous
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    Jun 2nd 2020 !⃝

    It's so obviously about smoking crack. The rocks may melt and the sea (C-crack) may burn. Learning to Fly means learning to get high because when you're high you don't need wings, and the Jones or coming down from your high is the hardest thing. Stealing your crown refers to taking away your riches and position in life, since it's clear that smoking crack will ruin you financially.

  6. anonymous
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    Dec 22nd 2019 !⃝

    I know most of you say it’s not about drugs and I say your right. It’s about getting sober and learning to live again.

  7. anonymous
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    Oct 6th 2017 !⃝

    I've always thought it's about growing older. "Coming down is the hardest thing."

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  8. anonymous
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    Oct 3rd 2017 !⃝

    May TOM PETTY always [R.I.P] I know that I've heard that this song isn't about drugs, and I agree. But you can interpret this song from personal experience, being high on drugs that's ''almost like'' getting on a one way plane trip to the higher plain. All the while getting way to high on those certain drugs to experience the God Expierience of ''Learning To Fly'' there. Without thinking or worrying that you may lose everything, if you try to come down. Asking yourself ''when and how'' to land, 'cause you learned to fly much more Mentally without having the experience of any Wings to guide you back, and if you ever do, that's the hardest thing to do, 'cause you are usually pulled down from your escape trip by the earth's gravity to crash land back into yourself.

  9. anonymous
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    Dec 28th 2015 !⃝

    Not every single song is about Drugs. Tom Petty said it wasn't about drugs and since he wrote it, let's give him credit for knowing what his own song was about.

    One interview says he saw a pilot on TV talking about how when you learn to fly that landing is the most difficult part. I think the song is both talking about the difficult things in life and relating them to the actual experience of learning to fly.

  10. michaeljn
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    Jul 5th 2014 !⃝

    Earth to humans................ The song is about chicks!!!!

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  11. anonymous
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    Aug 11th 2012 !⃝

    No, your all wrong. When tom was asked if the song was about drugs, he simply said no. He once talked to a pilot, who in fact, was learning to fly. He told Tom that coming down was the hardest thing. Simple as that

  12. anonymous
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    Apr 25th 2012 !⃝

    Never having done drugs... I got into the song because... i just dont' know why.
    I think there is a meaning here for anyone who connects with it and needs to find it.

  13. anonymous
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    Jan 20th 2010 !⃝

    This song is about the epidemic of crack cocaine, how it came out of nowhere and before you knew it it was everywhere. The part about the sun went down across the hill, the town lit up the world stood still, is about Capital Hill in D.C., The rocks may melt, the C will burn, that is crack cocaine, It will break your heart, steal your crown...... How can anyone think this song is about achieving dreams?

  14. anonymous
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    Sep 10th 2009 !⃝

    I recently heard this song on the radio and have always associated it with suicidal ideations. The musical background seems both 'grounded' and lofty, the thoughts of one who can't "fly".
    The narrator is trapped in circumstances or a life from which they cannot escape, but they see the road out: suicide ("a ribbon of black/stretched to the point of no turning back"). "A flight of fancy on a windswept field" brings to mind the fields near my residence: they're windswept and desolate. The narrator is desperate for a way out, and receives an 'answer' from the sky: "standing below/ my senses reeled". The "fatal attraction" holding them fast would be the romantic notions of suicide that many people seem to hold, and he cannot "escape/this irresistible grasp", pulling all his thoughts into this final act.
    The sky would represent everything he wished to accomplish but, for whatever reason, could not. He cannot stop thinking of his regrets and failures, the "circling sky".
    "Ice is forming/ on the tips of my wings" means that his ability to function is weakening with his depression. He thought he thought of everything that could go wrong with his plan, not heeding the warnings of what could happen. He has no navigator to bring him 'home', where his happiness once was.
    Here, I heard the lyrics not as "a soul in tension/ is learning to fly" but "my sole intention/ was learning to fly", in that the narrator failed at his attempt to die. His condition is grounded (perhaps in a mental hospital) but he's determined to try again. His only hope is “flying” away from his life or failures; however, the “circling sky” makes him feel guilty about leaving, too. He is still just a tongue-tied, twisted earth-bound misfit.
    The background speech, if not heard correctly as flying jargon, could be the blur of the psychiatric hospital around him as he succeeds in his attempt. Lack of oxygen causes the weightless sensation the next verse describes (and it just sounds beautiful).
    “Above the planet/ on a wing and a prayer” represents his feeling that he has succeeded, that everything is going to be much better. He is hallucinating (though I don’t know if this can happen or not) and experiences a sensation of floating above the clouds. This is “a dream unthreatened/ by the morning light”, because nothing can happen to him now. “There’s no sensation to compare with this/ suspended animation, a state of bliss.” He no longer has to see the ‘circling sky’ in his life.
    This sounds dark, but it makes sense to me. I know that it was written about flying, but like all good songs, it can be taken different ways. I can see the metaphors for love, sex, new beginnings, and actually flying a plane as well, but this is my take on it. I love everything about this beautiful song: the lyrics, the music, and the final verse especially.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  15. ccolungax
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    Jun 1st 2009 !⃝

    My interpretation of this song , because we never knows what's in the mind of the writer at the moment... is that he's making a song about how we run before to learn to walk... like Tom Petty he got amazing songs and that gave him a huge popularity but he knows that Life give ups and downs... and no one knows where we will be tomorrow today you are a star and tomorrow you can be a mr. nobody ... and that will be worst than never been a star.

    but is a song that you can set it to your life, maybe you are having a ggod time (drugs, parties, having your parents alive with you, the born of a son) an this should end someday the drugs will get you down, the party will end, your parents will die and even your son can die before you... so you got to understand that nothing last forever, if you are learning day after day and lives as usual enjoying the moment knowing that it wont last forever, you'll have no regrets when all of it gets over...

    i'm learning to fly but i don't have wings .... we don't have the certaintly of being flying all the time (we don't have the life purchased)....we are not inmortals, not even the rocks, not even the sea...

    think about it is a reflexive song.

  16. anonymous
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    Apr 20th 2009 !⃝

    I believe it can be intetpreted two main ways. One, as many have previously stated, it relates to drug abuse and recovering from this false high. I wont go into detail, as its already been done.

    Secondly, it is about a young man,or girl, coming of age. He or she must leave behind the conveniences of childhood and the "wings" of others bearing his burden. The person is learning carry his own weight and confront the hardships of life, or "fly without wings". Especially after i first saw the music video, this notion was sure set inside of me that this was what the song was written about.

  17. anonymous
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    Mar 13th 2007 !⃝

    It's about being on a high whether drug induced or not, and knowing the whole time that it will indeed come crashing down and it will suck.

  18. anonymous
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    Feb 10th 2007 !⃝

    yeah, kinda. I think its more along the lines of
    learning to fly, when you aint got wings.
    coming down is the hardest thing.
    What he means by learning to fly when you aint got wings is first being introduced to drugs. Because later on it says
    well the good ol days will not return,
    thats just it see he doesn't have wings but he's got the dope. That's why coming down is so hard.

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