Saturday, February 14, 1987

Bon Jovi hit #1 with “Livin’ on a Prayer”

First posted 11/1/2019; updated 4/20/2020.

Livin’ on a Prayer

Bon Jovi

Writer(s): Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Desmond Child (see lyrics here)

First Charted: October 25, 1986

Peak: 14 US, 14 CB, 13, 12 AR, 4 UK, 12 CN, 3 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 3.4 US, 0.6 UK, 4.3 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 666.0 video, 467.0 streaming


About the Song:

Bon Jovi started in 1983, releasing two albums over the next couple of years and building a following as a platinum-selling hair band. For their third album, they brought in producer Bruce Fairbairn because, as Jon Bon Jovi said, “he just had that same Jersey gutter attitude as us.” BR1 Fairbairn noted that “while their previous record had been good, …the songs weren’t as strong as they could be. Specifically, they didn’t have songs on their records that were radio-oriented.” BR1

That was no longer a problem with the resulting Slippery When Wet album. On the strength of three top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 the album sold 20 million copies and gave Bon Jovi international fame. The first single, “You Give Love a Bad Name,” was a #1 hit, but the follow-up – “Livin’ on a Prayer” eclipsed it, becoming the band’s signature song. It was the only song in 1987 to spend more than three weeks atop the Billboard charts and Cashbox named it song of the year. In an online poll in 2006, VH1 viewers named it the greatest song of the ‘80s. WK

Lyrically, the song focuses on a working-class couple struggling to make ends meet. Tommy and Gina were inspired by real people who Jon Bon Jovi and Desmond Child, a co-writer on the song, knew. WK Initially, Jon didn’t like the song, thinking they might pawn it off on a soundtrack. BR1 Fairbairn fought for including it on the album and after they re-recorded the song with the inclusion of a talk box – an effect featured prominently on Peter Frampton’s “Show Me the Way” a decade earlier – the band thought they had a single on their hands. BR1

The song experienced an unusual revival in 2013. A video shot at a Boston Celtics’ game showed basketball fan Jeremy Fry enthusiastically dancing to “Livin’ on a Prayer.” When it went viral and drew millions of views worldwide, the song the re-charted, hitting #25. SF

Resources and Related Links:

Thursday, February 5, 1987

“Someone to Watch Over Me” charted 50 years ago today (2/5/1927)

First posted 2/5/2016; updated 2/2/2020.

Someone to Watch Over Me

Gertrude Lawrence

Writer(s): George Gershwin/ Ira Gershwin (see lyrics here)

First Charted: February 5, 1927

Peak: 2 US, 5 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, -- video, -- streaming



A rag doll which George Gershwin found in a toy store ended up as a featured prop during 1926’s Oh, Kay! It stayed in the show for the entire run of 246 performances – the longest-running Gershwin musical up to that point. British star Gertrude Lawrence appeared alone on the stage in the second act, touchingly singing “Someone to Watch Over Me” to the doll. SS

The “plaintive Gerswhin love song” MM was initially conceived by George as a “fast and assertive” melody, but he wasn’t satisfied with it until he slowed down the tempo. Then he gave it to his brother Ira, who penned lyrics around “contradictory proverbs, sayings, and clichĂ©s.” TY Deena Rosenberg wrote that it is “a song of wanting and seeking” SS and that “the yearning for someone to watch over us changes from childhood…[to] old age, but it is always there.” SS

Lawrence would introduce the commercial recording as well, peaking at #2 on the charts in 1927. That year also saw charted versions from George Olsen (#3) and George Gershwin himself (#17) PM “as one of his few piano solos.” JA Lawrence would also perform it in the 1942 film Young at Heart, the first of many screen appearances for this Gerswhin classic. It was also featured in the 1945 Gershwin biopic Rhapsody in Blue. JA

The song has “become a cabaret favorite and one of Gershwin’s most often performed songs.” JA with versions from such diverse artists as Barbara Carroll, Dennis DeYoung, Willie Nelson, Sinead O’Connor, Linda Ronstadt with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, Rod Sewart, Sting, Art Tatum, Sarah Vaughn, Brian Wilson, and Amy Winehouse.

Resources and Related Links:

  • Gertrude Lawrence’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • George Gershwin’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • Ira Gershwin’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • JA Jasen, David A. (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Rememberd Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 178.
  • MM Max Morath (2002). The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Popular Standards. New York, NY; Penguin Putnam Inc. Page 182.
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volume I). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Page 468.
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill. Page 37.
  • PM Record Research’s Pop Memories 1890-1954 (1986). By Joel Whitburn. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Pages 269 and 342.