To Be With You

Album: Lean Into It (1991)
Charted: 3 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • One of the great unrequited love songs, "To Be With You" has a true story behind it. Mr. Big lead singer Eric Martin wrote the song when he was still a teenager - 16 or 17 in his estimation. The girl was Patricia Reynolds, and he had it bad for her.

    "We were really, really good friends," Martin said in a Songfacts interview. "I was totally enamored with this woman. She was beautiful. Smart. I mean, brains, beauty, break down the walls, made me crawl on my belly like a reptile!

    I just loved this woman, but she just wanted to be my friend. She'd have tons of boyfriends, and maybe she misconstrued promiscuity for love. But I wanted to be the knight in shining armor. That's what I was, a knight in shining armor. But basically, I didn't get my feet wet. I wrote it about how I would have done anything to just be more than a friend and a confidante."
  • By the time he put this song together, Eric Martin knew that he and Patricia were not to be. He had a different motivation by this point. "I wrote it mainly to impress my sister's girlfriends," he said.
  • This song has very spare instrumentation, mainly just a bass drum, acoustic guitar and hand claps. This is a key component of the song, as it accentuates the heart-rending lyrics.

    Eric Martin completed the song with David Grahame, a songwriter his publisher teamed him up with. Grahame was in the Beatlemania show - he played Paul McCartney. The cassette demo Martin had made of "To Be With You" was in the folk vein; when Grahame heard it, he thought of the Beatles song "Give Peace A Chance," which uses a spare, improvised percussion and group chorus. He suggested they do something similar with "To Be With You," and it worked, giving the song a distinct sound that draws out the story.
  • Mr. Big is not a one-hit-wonder (the follow-up "Just Take My Heart" hit #16), but this is far and away their most popular song, and the only one to get enduring airplay. It's also not typical of their sound, which leans toward harder rock (check out "Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song)" to hear the contrast). When "To Be With You" saturated the airwaves, their audience shifted, with a lot more girls coming to their shows. This turned off some of their hard-core fans, but Eric Martin still holds the song in highest regard.

    "I love the vocal, I love the production of the song, I love singing it every night," he told us. "I've never felt like it was a curse at all. Because 'To Be With You' is on the lead-in to an album, and the album is like a smorgasbord of musical ideas and it's tons of variation on that record."
  • Lean Into It was Mr. Big's second album. Their first, self-titled album was released in 1989 and had a modest impact in both America and Japan. When "To Be With You" was issued, it quickly became a massive global hit, going to #1 in at least 12 countries, including America, Australia and Canada. Mr. Big fell off in popularity in ensuing years, but remained very popular in Japan, Indonesia, Korea and South America. In 2011, the band played their 100th show in Japan.
  • The music video did very well on MTV, which at the time still devoted most of their programing to videos. It was directed by Nancy Bennett, who also did the Led Zeppelin tribute video Encomium and worked on the TV series NewNowNext Music.
  • This wasn't the first single from the album - a song called "Green-Tinted Sixties Mind" was. "To Be With You" was only issued as a single after radio stations started playing it from the album.
  • The song was placed last on the album. "We didn't think of it as a hit," Mr. Big bass player Billy Sheehan told Songfacts. "We just loved the song. So when we did it, we put it last on the record, thinking, 'The record's over, the credits are running, this will be the final goodbye by the campfire at the end of the record. Everybody roast your marshmallows and sing along.'"
  • According to Billy Sheehan, who is one of the top technical bass players in rock, this is one of the hardest songs to play. "A song like that is challenging because it's sparse and you're under the microscope," he told us. "Every note counts. It's a challenging piece of music to play right and do it consistently."
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Comments: 12

  • Jeanie from Alto, GaTony in Camas, WA I don't know if or when you will see this since I just now realized I had an answer to my question. I just wanted to say thank you for giving me an answer. Now it makes the line in the song seem quite clever.
  • Tony from Camas, WaJeanie - the lead singer explained in an interview that it was a funny line based on a mood ring he wore as a kid about his feelings changing about the girl - http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/uponsun/2011/08/mr_bigs_eric_martin_q_a.php
  • Jeanie from Alto, GaDoes anyone know what it means in the song when they say "waited on a line of greens and blues"?
  • Lars Ulrich from CopenhagenDoesn't matter. The song is still totally lame. Okay maybe not lame but it did get sicking after hearing it like 24/7 on radio and MTV. Suse the typos but that what you get when you've been imbibing (big word for drinking) pilsner with an alchohal conent of 9 percent by volume.
  • Ben from Claremont, MnYou know what? I am totally sorry. I was wrong, and I got out of line. I should have just admitted that I made a mistake. I hope that nobody holds it against me. I hope everyone knows that Mr. Big did NOT create shredding, they just used it. I think I got the point across, though. Now everyone knows without a doubt that Mr. Big used shredding! Really, though, do forgive me.
  • Pat from Indio, CaPrevious comments non-with-standing; this is a great song. A power ballad you can easily sing g along too and every guy can identify with the songs's story.
  • Ben from Claremont, MnBut... if you really think about it, I said "this is a prime example of this type of music", clearly indicating it had been around before they used it... You create scrambled eggs every time you stir up some milk and eggs, although I wouldn't necessarily say you INVENTED them... well, maybe we have different ways of speaking "across the pond".
  • Ben from Claremont, MnOk, you're right. Wait, are you friends with someone from New Zealand? Or, are you just collaborating against me from 6,000 miles apart?
  • Luke from Manchester, EnglandActually Ben, you said "and you can clearly see that above" that they used soft melodies... to CREATE SHREDDING" so stop being arrogant and admit when you f**ked up
  • Ben from Claremont, MnOh, and Paul Gilbert was actually one of the original members of Mr. Big. Did you know that?
  • Ben from Claremont, MnI never once said that Mr. Big created shredding. If you'd slowed down and thought before jumping down my throat, you would have seen that, "They USED... shredding." It's ok. We all make mistakes.
  • Rik from Cambridge, New ZealandThere is no way that Mr Big created "shredding"!! Paul Gilbert was "shredding" long B4 Mr Big came along.
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