I'll Be There For You

Album: New Jersey (1988)
Charted: 18 1
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Songfacts®:

  • The title and sentiment are pretty generic, but in the hands of Bon Jovi, "I'll Be There For You" drips with passion. Compare to the other famous song with that title, the Friends theme by The Rembrandts. In that one, you get the sense that they'll hand you an umbrella if it's raining and maybe give you a ride to the airport, but that's about it. Bon Jovi will live and die for you; steal the sun from the sky for you; be the air for you. It's unconditional.
  • The uplifting chorus dominates the song, but the story told in the verses reveals a conflict. Jon Bon Jovi's girl has left him, and not for the first time. He desperately wants one more chance, convinced they can make it stick through the gravitational tug of their love. It's not clear why she left, but unlike many songs of this nature, the singer doesn't cop to infidelity or other wrongdoing. It's possible he's a little too needy and she can't keep propping him up ("You won't save me anymore"). She might also be looking for something he can't provide, in which case being there for her won't help.
  • "I'll Be There For You" was written by Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora, who were the primary songwriters in the group (Sambora left in 2013). It was the third single from their fourth album, New Jersey, following "Bad Medicine" and "Born to Be My Baby." "Bad Medicine" went to #1 in November 1988; "I'll Be There For You" hit the top spot in May 1989. The next single was "Lay Your Hands On Me," keeping Bon Jovi on the air throughout the summer of 1989.
  • A not-so-secret weapon in Bon Jovi's arsenal was Richie Sambora's backup vocals. He comes in like a Greek chorus on this one, emphasizing Jon Bon Jovi's declarations ("you know my hands are dirty... I wasn't there to make you happy"). He can't sing like Jon, but Sambora is a capable vocalist would add a rich contrast in songs like this one.
  • Running 5:43, "I'll Be There For You" was the longest song to hit #1 in 1989. Bon Jovi would let their songs breathe, even the singles. "Lay Your Hands On Me" clocks in at 5:58.

    Guns N' Roses is another act with rather long hit songs at this time, notably "Paradise City" (6:46) and "Patience" (5:53).
  • The music video, directed by Wayne Isham, mixes footage of Bon Jovi performing the song on a soundstage with shots from one of their actual concerts. They kept their videos pretty simple, usually showing the band in their element performing the song. Jon Bon Jovi was photogenic enough to pull it off. In 1990, he got his first movie role, appearing in Young Guns II.

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