Behind The Song Lyrics: “I’ll Be There for You,” Bon Jovi

Despite the number of websites in the world, there always seems like there could be more. Case in point: wouldn’t it be great to know how many times the Bon Jovi song, “I’ll Be There for You,” was put on break-up mix-tapes? Or how many sobbing singles put it on repeat since its release in 1989 after a broken heart? But we digress…

The nearly six-minute tune is an anthem to the end of a relationship. But with a twist. Not only does it tug at the heartstrings of any of those who have been dumped, but the song also includes hope. The speaker—presumably the big-haired Jon Bon Jovi–wants another chance. What does he promise for this renewed hope? I’ll be there for you, Bon Jovi sings, adding, I’d steal the sun from the sky for you. This from a platinum-selling singer.

Accentuated by a rising electric guitar line, the track pierces your skin, then your heart. It’s especially enjoyable to watch the music video for the song, the amount of hair from the Sayreville, New Jersey-born glam band is almost immeasurable. Bon Jovi, which formed in 1983, is of course the project of the frontman of the same name. Famous for stadium rockers like “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin on a Prayer,” the Grammy Award-winning group’s “I’ll Be There for You” is a bit slower tempo, more emotive. But no less impactful.

The song, which came on the band’s 1988 album New Jersey (their fourth), was one of two No. 1 hits to hit the airwaves from the LP (the other was “Bad Medicine”). “I’ll Be There for You” was the third single from New Jersey when it hit the airwaves on April 4, 1989. The song was written by the frontman and the band’s lead guitarist, Richie Sambora. In fact, at some Bon Jovi shows, Sambora has taken the lead vocal responsibilities along with lead guitar, singing the lyrics. Outside of the U.S., the song peaked at No. 2 in Canada and No. 6 in Ireland.

But perhaps what sticks out most from the track is its chorus. “I’ll be there for you. These five words I swear to you, Bon Jovi sings after a mile-high solo from Sambora. The melodrama is thick. But it gets the heart going like a dance song gets the feet twitching.

I’ll be there for you
These five words I swear to you
When you breathe, I wanna be the air for you
I’ll be there for you
I’d live and I’d die for you
I’d steal the sun from the sky for you
Words can’t say what love can do
I’ll be there for you

I know you know we’ve had some good times
Now they have their own hiding place
Well, I can promise you tomorrow
But I can’t buy back yesterday
Yeah, baby, you know my hands are dirty
(Oh, woman, you know my hands are dirty)
But I wanted to be your Valentine
I’ll be the water when you get thirsty, baby
When you get drunk, I’ll be the wine, oh

Is he right, is true love suicide? Probably not. Or, maybe it is. Depending on how you define the terms. But when Bon Jovi sings it, we know the meaning behind the lyrics. It’s that moment when the heart falls apart at the seams and we believe, lonely again, that there is no way back up the staircase of affection. Yet, eventually we find our footing, our hands become strong, and we mend what broke in ourselves.

Or, at least, that’s what we think we can do when we hear Sambora shred. And the Perth Amboy, New Jersey-born Bon Jovi moan. For the now-59-year-old Bon Jovi, how many hearts did he break along his career? How many wept while listening to “I’ll Be There for You,” wishing he was there for them? Maybe we’ll never know.

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