This is a song of encouragement, with Estefan addressing someone who has fallen on hard times, and letting that person know that he will get through it once he gets on his feet and makes it happen.
Gloria Estefan wrote many of her own songs, but not this one. It was composed by John DeFaria, Jorge Casas and Clay Ostwald. DeFaria is a guitarist/composer who has worked on a number of movies and TV shows. Casas and Ostwald are longtime collaborators with Gloria and Emilio Estefan and members of the late '80s iteration of Miami Sound Machine (Casas the bass player, Ostwald on keyboards). The duo produced the Cuts Both Ways album along with Emilio.
Estefan had several bigger hits, but "Get On Your Feet" became her signature song and the name of her 1989 tour, her first as a solo artist. That tour was cut short in March 1990 when she was badly injured in a tour bus accident. Estefan fractured vertebrae in her spine and had two metal rods placed in her back during surgery. During her recovery, this song took on new meaning, as it was a long struggle for Estefan to literally get back on her feet. After a lengthy rehab in which she worked on songs for the album Into the Light. That album was issued in 1991, and a revitalized Estefan returned to the road that year for another tour.
In our interview with the song's co-writer John DeFaria
, he explained that the song was written on the tour bus between gigs. "I wanted something positive and a great tune to play live," he said.
According to DeFaria, originally the verse lyric was the chorus.
This song provides the title for On Your Feet!
, a Broadway musical that tells the story of Gloria and her husband Emilio Estefan. The musical, starring Ana Villafane as Gloria and Josh Segarra as Emilio, opened in 2015. The songs appear in non-chronological order, and include "Don't Wanna Lose You
," "1-2-3" and of course, "Get On Your Feet."
This was used to hilarious effect in the 2012 episode of Parks And Recreation "The Comeback Kid," where Amy Poehler's character Leslie Knope runs for city council and makes a campaign announcement at an ice rink. Her team must walk across the ice to get to the podium, and as they stumble their way there, this song's hook ("get on your feet... get up and make it happen") plays in stops and starts. Poehler told Entertainment Weekly that this was her favorite scene from the show.
Estefan spoke about the enduring significance of this track in a 2007 iTunes interview: "Ever since I was a little girl, I felt that I wanted to be of service here on the earth: I felt that was my job somehow. And whatever I was going to do, I was going to find a way to do that. And so, as I got a larger audience - a broader audience worldwide, and more and more people were listening to me - it became important for me to share that thought. And the song 'Get on Your Feet' - which I didn't write, it was written actually by my guitar player, bass player and keyboardist...They knew how I felt. [They knew] what my thoughts were ... So although it was written before my accident, it was thrown back at me so many times... But that really is my motto. I look always forward. I look ahead. And that's why I chose to record that song, because I really loved the message."
This was used in the 1995 romantic drama Let It Be Me, starring Campbell Scott and Jennifer Beals.