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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Mary Jane's Last Dance - Lyrics Meaning

The song was released by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on their Greatest Hits album from 1993. The title character in the song is meant to be a lost love that has passed away. Petty gives a short backstory on Mary Jane and how she grew up very quickly (probably roughly) in middle America because she had little to no parental supervision. Then she meets Petty and they hit off, but he tells her that he cannot stay. Petty is restless and has decided to leave the small town and set out for more opportunity. His traveling in the song is in reference to the band touring in support of an album or to gain a following.

Throughout the song, which portrays an extended period of time, Petty reunites with Mary Jane as he visits the small town where he met her and she currently lives. Petty continues to visit, but ultimately leaves again, until he returns one day and finds out that Mary Jane has died. The deceased are typically buried in some of their nicer clothing and the "party dress" that Mary Jane is wearing is what she will be buried in. The "last dance" is Petty's final meeting with Mary Jane where he views her corpse and holds her body in one final morbid embrace before he leaves her for good.

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