Will You Be There

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"Will You Be There"
Single by Michael Jackson
from the album Dangerous and Free Willy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
ReleasedJune 28, 1993
  • 7:41 (album version)
  • 5:52 (Free Willy version)
  • 3:40 (single version)
Songwriter(s)Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson singles chronology
"Will You Be There"
"Gone Too Soon"
Music video
"Will You Be There" on YouTube

"Will You Be There"[a] is a song by American singer Michael Jackson which was released on June 28, 1993 as the eighth single from the eighth studio album Dangerous (1991). Jackson wrote and produced the song with additional production from Bruce Swedien. Originally debuted at MTV's 10th anniversary special, the song gained recognition over a year and a half later due to its appearance on the soundtrack to the 1993 film Free Willy of which it is the main theme. With the album version clocking in at seven minutes and forty-one seconds, it is the longest song in Michael Jackson's solo discography.

"Will You Be There" became yet another successful single from Dangerous, peaking at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, selling 1,000,000 copies and earning a platinum certification. Outside of the United States, "Will You Be There" peaked within the top ten of the charts in Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.


Jackson revealed in Living with Michael Jackson that "Will You Be There" was one of several songs he wrote in addition to "Heal the World" while at the Giving Tree, located on his Neverland Ranch property.[2]

According to Free Willy director Simon Wincer in his conversation with Slash Film, the idea of affording a Michael Jackson song came when the budget for the music increased following the film's positive reception at an advance screening.[3] Although Jackson didn't have the time to write a new song despite seeing a preview, it was Jerry L. Greenberg who made the suggestion of including "Will You Be There", around the same time he was recruiting talent for the film's soundtrack which was then released in collaboration with Epic Soundtrax and Jackson's imprint MJJ Music.[4]


The sheet music shows the key of D major.[5] The vocals span from D3 to E5.[5] The song has a tempo of 83 beats per minute. Jackson wrote and produced "Will You Be There"—with co-producing credits going to Bruce Swedien—and orchestrated the rhythm and vocal arrangements. Featured instruments are noted as piano, synthesizer, keyboard, drums, and percussion.

Song information[edit]

The album version of the song includes a prelude featuring the Cleveland Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus performing a portion of Beethoven's ninth symphony. The segment is from the fourth movement and is a lesser known portion of the famous "Ode to Joy". The German lyrics were written by Friedrich Schiller.

German original[6]
English translation
Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen?
Ahnest du den Schöpfer, Welt?
Such' ihn über'm Sternenzelt!
Über Sternen muss er wohnen.
Do you bow down, millions?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Seek Him beyond the starry canopy!
Beyond the stars must He dwell.

This classical introduction is then followed by a chorale interlude arranged by Andrae and Sandra Crouch. The Andrae Crouch Singers are heard throughout the rest of the song as well. At the end, Jackson recites a poem. This outro was also featured in his book Dancing the Dream.

Two more edits were created for the Free Willy soundtrack. The first that played in the film's closing credits is similar to the album version but without the prelude and interlude while the single version, subtitled "Reprise" on the soundtrack, removes the prelude, interlude and spoken outro.

Legal issues[edit]

"Will You Be There" was the subject of two lawsuits. The first was for copyright infringement of a recording by the Cleveland Orchestra of Ludwig van Beethoven's "Symphony No. 9" that played for 67 seconds at the beginning of the song.[7] The suit was filed by the Cleveland Orchestra[8] for 7 million dollars and was settled out of court with subsequent pressings of Dangerous including full credits in the album booklet. The second lawsuit was a claim of plagiarism by Italian songwriter Albano Carrisi who claimed that "Will You Be There" was copied from his song "I Cigni di Balaka" ("The Swans of Balaka"). After seven years, an Italian court ruled in favor of Carrisi because Jackson failed to show up to court. In a follow-up case some months later, the court ruled in favor of Jackson and rejected the claim, stating that while the two songs were very similar, they both may have been inspired by The Ink Spots' 1939 hit "Bless You for Being an Angel".[9]

Critical reception[edit]

Chris Lacy from Albumism noted the "gospel fervor" of "Will You Be There" and "Keep the Faith" in his retrospective on Dangerous' 25th anniversary. Calling the former song "a symphonic, heart-wrenching confession in which the shackles of Jackson’s deepest insecurities snap and crash to the floor".[10] The song was picked as critic's choice in a Billboard review from Larry Flick who described it as a "highly inspirational, gospel/pop tune", stating that Jackson "offers one of his purest vocals in a long while, wisely sidestepping busy instrumentation and studio gimmicks. As a result, listeners are reminded how special and unique he truly is."[11] Troy J. Augusto from Cashbox commented, "Not as immediate as much of Michael's material, but dreamy enough to connect with his audience." He added, "Big vocal chorus and string arrangement add to song's appeal."[12] Alan Jones from Music Week gave it four out of five, stating that this "Afrocentric, spiritually uplifting" track "will be a hit."[13] Rolling Stone wrote that "the grandiose 'Will You Be There' never catches fire" and added that "the sequencing of Dangerous often clusters similar songs in bunches", and with that "it's easy to overlook" the following track "Keep The Faith" which, like "Will You Be There", also features the Andrae Crouch Singers. However, according to the article "is looser and sets off fireworks with a call-and-response gospel coda".[14]


Award Category Result
1994 MTV Movie Awards Best Song From a Movie Won

Music video[edit]

Vince Patterson directed two music videos for "Will You Be There". The official video included Jackson performing the song during various stops of the Dangerous World Tour while scenes from Free Willy centering around the friendship of Jesse and Willy are shown. The original VHS copies of Free Willy included the music video prior to the film. The second video from Dangerous: The Short Films combines the MTV's 10th Anniversary special performance with the Dangerous World Tour footage.

Live performances[edit]

Jackson performing "Will You Be There" during the Monza, Italy stop of the Dangerous World Tour in July 1992

"Will You Be There" along with "Black or White" both made their live debuts at MTV's 10th anniversary special that was taped in the summer of 1991 and later aired on ABC the day after the release of Dangerous on November 27 that year. Jackson would later perform it again throughout the Dangerous World Tour. The angel at the end of the 10th anniversary performance was played by Angela Ice.

At the 25th NAACP Image Awards in 1993 where Jackson accepted "Entertainer of the Year" that night, Daryl Coley, Patti LaBelle and the Voices of Faith Choir performed the song with Jackson joining in at the end. The song was planned for the HIStory World Tour (1996–1997), but was not included in final set list. A version was released on the 2004 DVD Live in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour. Jackson would have performed the song for the This Is It concerts which never took place due to his sudden death. The rehearsal for it, which took place on June 23, was not featured in the film This Is It (although it appears briefly on the DVD/Blu-ray bonus features), but was confirmed to have been part of the concert.

Other performances[edit]

Jennifer Hudson performed the song at Michael Jackson's memorial service on July 7, 2009.

The song was also covered by the band Boyce Avenue on their 2010 album Influential Sessions. Sales of this song on iTunes were used to raise money for relief of the 2010 Haiti earthquake through the American Red Cross. Band member Alejandro Manzano said "...though we knew that any cover of [Michael Jackson's] music would pale in comparison to the original, we were still compelled to give a shout out to the late great in this time of need, by doing our rendition of one of our favorite songs of his, 'Will You Be There.'"[15]

Michael Lynche performed the song on the ninth season of American Idol on May 11, 2010, prior to being eliminated from the Final 4.

Melanie Amaro performed the song in the first season of The X Factor on 2011. She survived during elimination bouts at judges' houses.

Fleur East performed the song on the eleventh season of the original The X Factor in the United Kingdom on November 8, 2014, during Queen vs. Michael Jackson week.

"Will You Be There" was remixed and included in the 2011 Cirque du Soleil's show Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour.

Track listing[edit]

CD and 12" single

  1. "Will You Be There" (radio edit) – 3:40
  2. "Man in the Mirror" – 5:19
  3. "Girlfriend" – 3:04
  4. "Will You Be There" (album version) – 7:40

CD promo

  1. "Will You Be There" (radio edit) – 3:40

7" and cassette single

  1. "Will You Be There" (radio edit) – 3:40
  2. "Will You Be There" (instrumental) – 3:40

3-inch single

  1. "Will You Be There" (radio edit) – 3:40
  2. "Girlfriend" – 3:04

Video single

  1. "Will You Be There" (music video) – 5:56

Running time: 4 minutes 30 seconds




Sale certifications for "Will You Be There"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
New Zealand (RMNZ)[54] Gold 5,000*
United States (RIAA)[55] Platinum 1,000,000

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ Subtitled "(Theme from Free Willy)"


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