Watch a band of Afghan refugees cover Won’t Back Down with the help of Joe Walsh, Matt Sorum and Timothy B. Schmit

A group of Afghan girls playing acoustic guitars
(Image credit: Lannny Cordola/YouTube)

A team of A-list musicians have teamed up with a group of Afghan refugees currently living in Pakistan to record a defiant cover of Tom Petty’s anthemic 1989 track, I Won’t Back Down.

Though the collective of musicians boasts some impressive names – including Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh, bassist Timothy B. Schmit and former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum – the star of the show is the group of young Afghan girls, who are living in Pakistan having recently escaped Taliban rule.

With a handful of groups armed with a suite of acoustic guitars – and others tasked with providing vocal harmonies – the young musicians help transform the rendition from a run-of-the-mill cover to a far more powerful performance courtesy of their collective six-string strumming en masse.

Country singer Blake Shelton completes the remotely assembled ensemble, with Walsh also taking the opportunity to treat the track to a particularly piercing guitar solo with a healthy dose of Tele twang.

The message of the song, which is concerned with defiance and strength in the face of adversity or oppression, is especially poignant in this case, given the fact that the musicians seen in the video have been forced to flee their home country.

The Afghan musicians seen in the video are beneficiaries of The Miraculous Love Kids – a charity founded by Lanny Cordola that “served as Afghanistan’s only school of music where guitar lessons were taught to war-torn, poverty-stricken girls and young women”.

However, following the ascension of Taliban rule in the country, “the guitar lessons, the recordings, the videos, and the hope for a better life” were all removed.

According to Cordola, I Won’t Back Down became an anthem for those who fled the country in their pursuit of freedom, justice, equality and peace.

“It’s not only for the girls and women of Afghanistan but for all oppressed people of the world,” Cordola said of the song. “As Tom Petty so powerfully wrote” ‘You can stand me up at the gates of hell but I won’t back down…’”

“May music always bring you girls the inspiration and connection to a higher power that delivers you strength and joy,” commented Walsh. “I’m grateful to have shared this moment with you all. Peace and love.”

Schmit offered his own praise for the charity’s work, commenting, “Lanny is a saint for being a part of these girls’ lives by helping them move forward through music. Even after all they’ve experienced in their young lives, you can see and feel their beautiful life forces shining through.”

It’s not the first time The Miraculous Love Kids have teamed up with high-profile artists for a charity single. Almost a year ago to this day, the nonprofit enlisted Tom Morello, Nandi Bushell, Julien Baker and more for a rendition of God Help Us All.

To find out more, head over to The Miraculous Love Kids.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.