Bon Jovi - Livin' On A Prayer (1986)
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“Livin’ on a Prayer” is a song by American rock band Bon Jovi, and the band’s second chart-topping ...
“Livin’ on a Prayer” is a song by American rock band Bon Jovi, and the band’s second chart-topping single from their third album Slippery When Wet. Written by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Desmond Child, the single, released in late 1986, was well received at both rock and pop radio and its music video was given heavy rotation at MTV, giving the band their first No. 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and their second consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit.
“Livin’ on a Prayer” is the band’s signature song, topping fan-voted lists and re-charting around the world decades after its release. The original 45-RPM single release sold 800,000 copies in the United States, and in 2013 was certified Triple Platinum for over 3 million digital downloads. The official music video has over 680 million views on YouTube as of June 2020.
Jon Bon Jovi did not like the original recording of this song, which can be found as a hidden track on 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong. Lead guitarist Richie Sambora, however, convinced him the song was good, and they reworked it with a new bassline (recorded by Hugh McDonald uncredited ), different drum fills and the use of a talk box to include it on Slippery When Wet. The song spent two weeks at number one on the Mainstream Rock Tracks, from January 31 to February 14, 1987, and four weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, from February 14 to March 14. It also hit number four on the UK singles chart.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks – in which New Jersey was the second-hardest hit state after New York, suffering hundreds of casualties among both WTC workers and first responders – the band performed an acoustic version of this song for New York. Bon Jovi performed a similar version as part of the special America: A Tribute to Heroes.
The song reveals two characters, Tommy and Gina, a working-class couple who struggle to make ends meet. Tommy loses his job as a dockworker due to a strike while Gina works as a diner waitress. The storyline was inspired by real-life events that Jon Bon Jovi and songwriter Desmond Child experienced in the 1970’s. Jon Bon Jovi had an acquaintance who was a star baseball player in his school and wanted to be a professional baseball player only for his girlfriend to inform him of her pregnancy wherein he gave up the ambition and took up a job in a factory. Desmond Child was a taxi driver in New York while his then-girlfriend, singer-songwriter Maria Vidal, worked as a waitress in a diner named “Once Upon A Stove”, similar to Gina in the song. The owner, manager, and other employees of the diner called Vidal as Gina due to her slight physical resemblance to Italian actress and photographer Gina Lollobrigida.
“It deals with the way that two kids – Tommy and Gina – face life’s struggles,” noted Bon Jovi, “and how their love and ambitions get them through the hard times. It’s working class and it’s real… I wanted to incorporate the movie element, and tell a story about people I knew. So instead of doing what I did on ‘Runaway’, where the girl didn’t have a name, I gave them names, which gave them an identity… Tommy and Gina aren’t two specific people; they represent a lifestyle.”
Bon Jovi explained that he “wrote that song during the Reagan era and the trickle-down economics are really inspirational to writing songs”. Tommy and Gina are also referred to in Bon Jovi’s 2000 single “It’s My Life”.
The music video was filmed on September 17, 1986, at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California and was directed by Wayne Isham. It all starts with a silhouette of the band walking down the hall and it features shots of the band rehearsing, filmed in black and white, then playing in front of a crowd, in color.
In the beginning of the video, Jon has a harness attached by professional stunt coordinators and stunt spotters, and during the final chorus, he soars over the crowd via overhead wires attached to the harness.