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Title: ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’
Where to find it: ‘Slippery When Wet’ (1986, Mercury)
Performed by: Bon Jovi
Words by: Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Desmond Child

First, the words:
Spoken intro
Once upon a time, not so long ago…

Verse 1
Tommy used to work on the docks
Union’s been on strike
He’s down on his luck
It’s tough, so tough

Gina works the diner all day
Working for her man
She brings home her pay
For love, for love

Pre-chorus
She says, “We’ve gotta hold on to what we’ve got.
It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not.
We’ve got each other and that’s a lot.
For love,
We’ll give it a shot.”

Chorus
Whoa, we’re halfway there
Whoa, livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand and we’ll make it, I swear
Whoa, livin’ on a prayer

Verse 2
Tommy’s got his six-string in hock
Now he’s holding in
What he used to make it talk
So tough, it’s tough

Gina dreams of running away
When she cries in the night
Tommy whispers,
“Baby, it’s okay, someday…

Pre-chorus
…We’ve gotta hold on to what we’ve got.
It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not.
We’ve got each other and that’s a lot.
For love,
we’ll give it a shot.”

Chorus
Whoa, we’re halfway there
Whoa, livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand and we’ll make it, I swear
Whoa, livin’ on a prayer
Livin’ on a prayer…

Guitar solo, then bridge
We’ve gotta hold on, ready or not
You live for the fight when it’s all that you’ve got

Chorus 2x
Whoa, we’re halfway there
Whoa, livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand and we’ll make it, I swear
Whoa, livin’ on a prayer

Whoa, we’re halfway there
Whoa, livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand and we’ll make it, I swear
Whoa, livin’ on a prayer

Now, the analysis:

Bon Jovi are a band that divide opinion among the denizens of Duranie nation. Some Duranies absolutely hate them. Can’t stand them. There are those like me who don’t mind them but probably wouldn’t walk across the street to shake Jon Bon Jovi’s hand. (I will admit, however, that I have ‘Slippery When Wet’ on cassette. Ha!) They were of course an important part of the ‘80s, though back then, I used to think they were one of the weirdest-looking bands at the time. Seriously. That big hair and tights? What were they thinking?

Over the last week, Bon Jovi has been played *a lot* on local radio stations while I’ve been in the car, and even though they’ve got several megahits from that decade, I don’t think it was a coincidence. I began thinking about how ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ has become a karaoke night mainstay. Why is that? It isn’t hard to understand. Like many anthems of the blue collar working class, it drives home the point that if you keep on at keeping on, you will survive whatever situation you’re currently suffering through. You can overcome hardship. You can overcome adversity.

This is an important message for everyone to hear right now, and this is where I segue into discussing what has been keeping me away from Music in Notes. This past Saturday, I don’t what I was thinking, but I decided to watch the latest GOP Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, the next battleground on the way to securing political party nominations in the United States. Here in America, we seem to be in a terrible state of flux and have been for a long time. The possibility of Donald Trump becoming our president in less than a year’s time has grown, and it truly makes my stomach turn. The GOP debate further reiterated in my mind that the GOP has truly lost the plot. They’re fighting with each other while a good chunk of our country are either homeless, can’t afford to feed their kids and put a roof over their heads, or pay their bills. Out of touch, out of mind, I guess.

It feels, too, like my own life has been in similar flux, as if I’m on the edge of a precipice of major changes. As humans, I think it’s only human nature that when things around us are changing, either for the better or worse, when we feel like we are soaring or crumbling, it’s like when you’ve got a magnifying glass over an ant on a sunny day. It’s like everything feels so much better in the euphoria. Or that much worse within depressed wallowing. Bon Jovi chose the former feeling for this song, and millions of music lovers should be thankful.

Unless you are a multi-millionaire and you think you won’t be affected by who is voted in as president, you should be concerned about the future of this country. Tommy and Gina were suffering during the economic downturn in the ‘80s, and now Tommy and Gina’s children are battling to survive today. The details may be different but the struggles are the same. In verse 1 of this song, we learn Tommy has lost his job, but the couple’s heads are barely over water with Gina’s paltry paycheck from her work at the diner.

In verse 2, we also learn that Tommy’s pawned his guitar (“Tommy’s got his six-string in hock”) and his usual mode of relieving stress is gone (“now he’s holding in / what he used to make it talk”). Gina’s also stressed and wants to run away, as if running away was a real solution. The pre-chorus of this song is a one of two linchpins, because it’s a reminder of how important love and staying together is for the purposes of survival. As the saying goes, “united we stand, divided we fall.”

The other linchpin is, of course, the chorus. If it hasn’t been done already, someone should be paid to study what exactly the effect is of a positive, ascending chord sequence is to endorphins in the body. Why does everyone like singing along to the chorus of ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’? Sure, part of it has to do with its survivor mentality, but I think subliminally, the chord changes elevate our mood from wherever we currently are. Even better in this song, notice how in the second to the last chorus, the starting key goes up even further. As Bono once sang, “elevation!”

The song is also notable for Richie Sambora’s use of a talk box. People seem to forget this. You know, what Kanye’s doing isn’t really *that* pioneering…

Lastly, the song, in its official music video.

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