Friday, May 17, 2013

Song Meaning: Livin' on a Prayer by Bon Jovi

Artist: Bon Jovi | Album: Slippery When Wet | Released: 1986
Riding on the popularity of the glam metal scene in the 80's, "Livin' on a Prayer" shot to the top of the charts. It was Bon Jovi's second consecutive #1 hit from Slippery When Wet album, the first one was You Gave Love a Bad Name. Since it's release, it has become Bon Jovi's Paranoid, their signature song. It's never been excluded from their live setlist. Still to this day, it's very popular among rock and pop radio stations.

The song describes the adversity of a blue-collar working couple name Tommy and Gian. Tommy is a dockworker (person who loads and unloads vessels in a port, if you didn't know it because today machines are doing that job), but apparently temporarily unemployed due the union strike. Gina is being employed as a waitress. She's smart enough to remind restless Tommy that having each other's love is much more important than their current financial distress. I mean I have no other way to interpret "We got each other/ And that's a lot for love."

Just like most blue-collar workers,  Tommy and Gina also believe in God, hence the title and line "livin' on a prayer." It's quite often the case that lesser a person has, they tend to believe in higher powers to protect them. "We're half way there" refers to the fact they need to 'hand on' and not give up hope, ie the best is yet to come. In the second verse, Bon Jovi says "Gina dreams of running away." This is a classic 'filler' line to complete the verse. These are commonly seen in latter verses of a song. It doesn't make sense for the same who said "we gotta hold to what we got" earlier to contemplate running away. On an interesting note, if this was a Metallica song, "running away" would be written as "death greets [her] warm, and now [she'll] just say goodbye." Because of the success of the single over the years, Tommy and Gina have become popular characters. In It's My Life, a single released in 1991, Bon Jovi makes a reference back to these two characters.

That's what I make of the song. Let me know what you think in the comments below:

Once upon a time
Not so long ago

Tommy used to work on the docks
Union's been on strike
He's down on his's tough, so tough
Gina works the diner all day
Working for her man, she brings home her pay
For love - for love

She says we've got to hold on to what we've got
'Cause it doesn't make a difference
If we make it or not
We've got each other and that's a lot
For love - we'll give it a shot

Whooah, we're half way there
Livin' on a prayer
Take my hand and we'll make it - I swear
Livin' on a prayer

Tommy's got his six string in hock
Now he's holding in what he used
To make it talk - so tough, it's tough
Gina dreams of running away
When she cries in the night
Tommy whispers baby it's okay, someday

We've got to hold on to what we've got
'Cause it doesn't make a difference
If we make it or not
We've got each other and that's a lot
For love - we'll give it a shot


We've got to hold on ready or not
You live for the fight when it's all that you've got


Lyrics from 

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