Thirty years ago yesterday, Bon Jovi's "Livin' On a Prayer" hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for four weeks. It was the band's second consecutive #1 song (after "You Give Love a Band Name," which topped the charts in November 1986), and "Livin' On a Prayer" has since become the band's signature song. This is the song that pushed Bon Jovi from being a pretty big band to being a huge band.
A story of blue collar love, the song tells us about Tommy -- a stevedore who has been out of work because his union is on strike, apparently without a very good strike fund -- and Gina, Tommy's girlfriend or possibly fiance or wife, who waitresses at a diner to try to make ends meet. Even if they can't pay their bills, they still have each other. And that's a lot for love.
When I was in college, Bear's Place had karaoke every Thursday night. There was always kind of a race to sing "Livin' On a Prayer" because it was guaranteed to bring the house down every time. No matter what, the entire crowd would sing along with the chorus. Spirits were lifted. Lives were changed.
But adulation from drunken college students in the late '90s is not the only accolade the song has received. The single went platinum in the US, selling well over 3 million copies. The song not only hit #1 in the US, but also in three other countries, as well as the Top 10 in nine other countries. It finished as the #10 song on the Billboard Hot 100 end of the year chart for 1987. It has been named the #1 song on VH-1's Top 100 Greatest Songs of the '80s, and landed at #46 on Billboard's Hot 100 Rock Songs of All-Time released in 2008.