Saturday, February 14, 1987

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

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, 721.0 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

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.” BR 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.” BR

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. BR 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. BR

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:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Bon Jovi
  • DMDB page for parent album Slippery When Wet
  • BR Fred Bronson (2007). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (4th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 660.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 11/1/2019; last updated 4/28/2021.

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