This song dates to 1990, when Hootie & the Blowfish included it on a five-song cassette they sold at shows. They got a record deal with JRS Records the following year, but nothing came of it and they were dropped eight months later. In 1992 they released an independent EP called Kootchypop, again with "Hold My Hand" on the tracklist. This EP got the attention of Atlantic Records, which signed the band in 1993 and had them record a new version of the song that was released as their first single in 1994 and included on their debut album Cracked Rear View, which became the best-selling album in the label's history.
Early versions of the song were more sparse, without the prominent background vocals heard on the hit. By the time the group recorded it for Atlantic, they had been playing it for years and had it polished to a sheen.
A band composition, this song is about being there for someone and facing life's challenges together. It's a sweet sentiment that played well with the easygoing melody.
David Crosby, famous for his work with Crosby, Stills, and Nash, sang backup on this and some other songs on the album. Crosby is known for his ability to harmonize.
This song got a lot of airplay and helped make the Cracked Rear View album (named for a line in the 1987 John Hiatt song "Learning How To Love You") the bestseller of 1995 in the US. The single was released shortly before the album came out, and it was a slow build: The group made appearances on The Tonight Show and The Late Show With David Letterman in 1994, but their first US tour was as the openers for Big Head Todd & the Monsters.
It was in February 1995 when "Hold My Hand" reached its peak chart position, as Hootie & the Blowfish filled a niche of mellow pop that wasn't being served by the grunge and gangsta rap that was prevalent at the time.
Frontman Darius Rucker told The Boot that this was the first Hootie song he heard being played on the radio. He recalled: "The first time I heard a Hootie song, Dean Felber - our bass player for Hootie - and I were driving in his car and 'Hold My Hand' came on the radio - first time we had heard it on the radio. We were in Columbia, South Carolina. It came on the radio, and we were listening to it and about halfway through the song, he reached over and he turned it [up], and we just started giggling.
That was in early 1994. My heart raced. For me, it was a moment where I thought, 'Wow! This is radio... not just some college radio, we're on pop radio!' We had been playing for nine years! It thought this might really be starting to happen. I thought we might be played on the radio. I didn't think we'd get played on the radio like we eventually did. That was a great day! You never forget the first time you hear your first song on the radio - that's hard to forget."
The group did a special version of this song for the kids' TV show Sesame Street
about how children should hold a grownup's hand when they cross the street.
Lisa - Bowling Green, KY
Hootie & the Blowfish suffered a bit of a backlash from overexposure, but they were really cool in 1995. Even MTV thought so, and gave them Best New Artist Video for "Hold My Hand" at their Video Music Awards that year. Still questioning the cool? They also performed the song with Al Green in December 1995 at the Billboard Music Awards, where Cracked Rear View was named Album of the Year.