Livin' on a Prayer

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For the Family Guy episode, see Livin' on a Prayer (Family Guy).
"Livin' on a Prayer"
Single by Bon Jovi
from the album Slippery When Wet
B-side "Wild in the Streets"
Released October 31, 1986 (1986-10-31)
Format 7", 12", CD Single
Recorded 1986
Genre Hard rock, glam metal
Length 4:11 (album version)
4:53 (full version)
4:23 (Rock Band 2 edit)
5:07 (DualDisc remix)
Label Mercury
Writer(s) Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child
Producer(s) Bruce Fairbairn
Certification Triple Platinum
Bon Jovi singles chronology
"You Give Love a Bad Name"
"Livin' on a Prayer"
"Wanted Dead or Alive"
Music video
Livin' on a Prayer on YouTube

"Livin' on a Prayer" is Bon Jovi's second chart-topping single from their 12× platinum Slippery When Wet album. 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.[1]

The song has become 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.

Song history[edit]

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. Sambora, however, convinced him the song was good, and they reworked it with a new bass line, different drum fills and the use of a talk box to include it on their upcoming album Slippery When Wet. The song spent two weeks at number one on the Mainstream Rock Tracks, from January 31 - February 14, 1987, and four weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, from February 14 – March 14. It also hit number four on the UK singles chart.

The album version of the song, timed around 4:10, fades out at the end. However, the music video game Guitar Hero World Tour features the song's original studio ending, where the band revisit the intro riff and end with a talk box solo; this version ends at 4:53. The original ending is also playable on similar video game Rock Band 2, though edited in this case (thereby eliminating the talk box solo at the end). The version included on the 2005 DualDisc edition of Slippery When Wet has an extended version of the original ending, with a different talk box solo playing over the riff (possibly taken from an outtake of the song); this version, which fades out at the end like the standard version of the song, ends at 5:06.

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 The Concert for New York City. Bon Jovi performed a similar version as part of the special America: A Tribute to Heroes.

Enduring success[edit]

In 2006, online voters rated "Livin' on a Prayer" No. 1 on VH1's list of The 100 Greatest Songs of the '80s. More recently, in New Zealand, "Livin' on a Prayer" was No. 1 on the C4 music channel show's "U Choose 40", on the 80's Icons list. It was also No. 1 on the "Sing-a-long Classics List". After Bon Jovi performed in New Zealand on January 28, 2008 while on their Lost Highway Tour, the song re-entered the official New Zealand RIANZ singles chart at number 24, over twenty years after the initial release.[2]

Australian music TV channel MAX placed this song at No. 18 on their 2008 countdown "Rock Songs: Top 100". In 2009, the song returned to the charts in the UK, notably hitting the number-one spot on the UK Rock Chart.

In 2010 the song was chosen in an online vote on the website over the group's more recent hits "Always" and "It's My Life" to be played live by the band on the 52nd Grammy Awards telecast.[3][4]

In the Billboard Hot 100 Anniversary 50, "Livin' on a Prayer" was named as 46 in the All time rock songs.[5] After the song was released for download, the song has sold 3.4 million digital copies in the US as of November 2014.[6]

The song, including its original ending, is also playable on the music video games Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band 2. The song was re-worked and made available to download on November 9, 2010 for use in the Rock Band 3 music gaming platform to take advantage of PRO mode which allows use of a real guitar / bass guitar, and standard MIDI-compatible electronic drum kits / keyboards in addition to up to three-part harmony or backup vocals.[7][8]

In November 2013, the song made its return to the Billboard Hot 100 at number 25, due to a viral video.

Lyrical interpretation[edit]

The song is about a fictional working class couple, Tommy and Gina, who struggle to make ends meet and maintain their relationship. Tommy "used to work on the docks" because "union's been on strike, he's down on his luck". Gina works at a diner, "workin' for her man".

While some have loosely interpreted the lyrics to be anti-labor, inferring that the striking labor union is the catalyst for the troubled chain of events for Tommy and Gina, others have pointed out that the song does not clarify the circumstances behind the strike, and the lone, vague reference could just as easily be interpreted as a pro-labor message with bosses' attacks forcing the union to go on strike. In fact, Jon Bon Jovi explained that he "wrote that song during the Reagan era (1980–88) and the trickle-down economics are really inspirational to writing songs".[9]

Music video[edit]

The video for the song features shots of the band rehearsing, then playing in front of a crowd. The first half of the video, featuring the rehearsal footage, is black and white, and the second half of the video, performing to the arena audience, is in color.

In the beginning of the video, Jon Bon Jovi has a harness attached, and later in the music video he soars over the crowd via overhead wires.

The music video was recorded on September 17, 1986 at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California and was directed by Wayne Isham.[10] Clips of the video are used in the Muppet Babies episode "Scooter By Any Other Name" during the song "Look At Me Now".


Bon Jovi have themselves reworked the song several times, including an acoustic live version that served as a precursor to the MTV Unplugged series and a re-recorded version of the song, "Prayer '94", which appeared on U.S. versions of their Cross Road hits collection. But the song has had a life of its own beyond the band, particularly in several dance music incarnations. The Audition recorded a version for Kerrang!'s CD Higher Voltage!: Another Brief History of Rock (2007). Alvin and the Chipmunks covered this song for their 2008 album Undeniable. Stellar Kart covered the song for their 2005 album All Gas. No Brake. It has also been covered by Philmore.

British new wave band Dead Or Alive used the song's guitar riff for the 7" Remix and 12" Big Revolver Mix of its single, "Hooked On Love", in an apparent acknowledgement to Bon Jovi's other song, Wanted Dead Or Alive.

Scott Barratt from Birmingham England also performed Living on a prayer during an audition on Britain's Got More Talent in 2010.

The song was sung by the female members of the Glee cast as a mash-up with "Start Me Up" by The Rolling Stones for the episode "Never Been Kissed."

One of the most successful cover versions was by Jordan James, dominating the charts in 2004 in Europe. Other famous covers with the same music style (trance) was made, such as by German group Groove Coverage and the Brazilian group Dalimas.

Sophie Habibis covered the song during 'Rock Week' on the eighth series of X Factor UK.

Swedish hip hop group Looptroop Rockers covered the song on their 2008 album Good Things.

This Morning presenter Matt Johnson performed the song as Jon Bon Jovi on week 1 of the ITV show Your Face Sounds Familiar.

America's Got Talent season 8 contestant Cami Bradley covered this song for the Top 12 episode on September 10, 2013.

George Mason University's pep band, the Green Machine, under direction of Michael "Doc Nix" Nickens, has also covered Livin' on a Prayer. When Mason's basketball team made its improbable run to the final four of the 2006 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament, the song became their unofficial theme song to represent the success of the underdog.

Ursuline Sister Cristina Scuccia covered this song during the second season of The Voice of Italy.

Charts and certifications[edit]

Succession and progression[edit]

Preceded by
"My Baby" by The Pretenders
Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks number-one single
January 31, 1987 – February 13, 1987 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Midnight Blue" by Lou Gramm
Preceded by
"Open Your Heart" by Madonna
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
February 14, 1987 – March 7, 1987 (4 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Jacob's Ladder" by Huey Lewis and the News
Preceded by
"Desolation Row" by My Chemical Romance
"Destabilise" by Enter Shikari
"Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End)" by The Darkness
UK Rock Chart number-one single
February 22, 2009 – March 22, 2009
November 6, 2010 – November 13, 2010
January 2, 2011 – January 9, 2011
Succeeded by
"I'd Come For You" by Nickelback
"Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)" by My Chemical Romance
"Feeling Good" by Muse

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ "Allmusic (Bon Jovi charts & awards) Billboard singles". 
  2. ^ RIANZ
  3. ^ More Grammy performers/presenters announced
  4. ^ Beyonce Swift Boated
  5. ^ It's Only Rock & Roll: Top Billboard Hot 100 Rock Songs
  6. ^ a b Appel, Rich (November 26, 2014). "Revisionist History, Part 5: Bon Jovi's 'Prayer' Answered, 'Caroline' Is Sweeter Than 'Sugar'". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved November 26, 2014. 
  7. ^ Kohler, Chris (2010-11-09). "Bon Jovi Rock Band Tracks Upgraded with Pro Keys, Guitars". Wired. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  8. ^ Snider, Mike (2010-06-10). "Rock Band 3: What's New, What's Notable". USA Today. Retrieved 2012-11-08. 
  9. ^ Bon Jovi Calls George Bush as 'lunatcic'! @ – 40 Top 20 & Top 40 Music Charts from 25 Countries
  10. ^ Wayne Isham videography
  11. ^ " – Bon Jovi – Livin' On A Prayer". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  12. ^ " – Bon Jovi – Livin' On A Prayer" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  13. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 45, No. 23, March 14, 1987". RPM. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  14. ^ "Bon Jovi: Livin' On A Prayer" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland.
  15. ^ " – Bon Jovi – Livin' On A Prayer". GfK Entertainment.
  16. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Livin' On A Prayer". Irish Singles Chart.
  17. ^ " – Bon Jovi – Livin' On A Prayer" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  18. ^ " – Bon Jovi – Livin' On A Prayer". Top 40 Singles.
  19. ^ " – Bon Jovi – Livin' On A Prayer". VG-lista.
  20. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
  21. ^ " – Bon Jovi – Livin' On A Prayer". Singles Top 60.
  22. ^ " – Bon Jovi – Livin' On A Prayer". Swiss Singles Chart.
  23. ^ "Bon Jovi: Artist Chart History" UK Singles Chart.
  24. ^ "2010 Top 40 Rock & Metal Singles Archive – 13th November 2010". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  25. ^ "Bon Jovi Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for Bon Jovi.
  26. ^ "Chart Search Results – Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks 1987-01-31". Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  27. ^ "Top 100 Singles of '87". RPM. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  28. ^ "Top Pop Singles of '87". Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  29. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Bon Jovi – Livin' on a Prayer". Music Canada. 
  30. ^ "British single certifications – Bon Jovi – Livin' on a Prayer". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Livin' on a Prayer in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search
  31. ^ "American single certifications – Bon Jovi – Livin' on a Prayer". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]