The Meaning Behind “Lay Your Hands on Me” by Bon Jovi and How it Symbolized the Band’s Connection with Their Fans

Bon Jovi didn’t take their foot off the gas following their 1986 breakthrough album Slippery When Wet. Instead, they rode the momentum to even more success with their 1988 follow-up New Jersey, which just kept spinning out hit singles. “Lay Your Hands on Me” was one of those hits, and it still endures as one of the band’s live showcases.

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What was the song about? How did it differ from other songs created by the band for the New Jersey album? And what was the intended message that fans were meant to take from the song? Let’s go back to a time when Bon Jovi were the biggest hard rock band in the world and looking to solidify that position.

Jersey Boys

You might think the two-year period between the release of Slippery When Wet and New Jersey meant that Bon Jovi took some time off to enjoy the success of the former album. In actuality, they started writing the new record a few weeks after they finished the tour for the old one. But they were so determined not to let down they struggled to come up with songs they felt met their previous standard.

The band’s chief songwriters, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, eventually wrote so many songs (with occasional help from top guns Desmond Child, Holly Knight, and Diane Warren) they ended up with enough to make a double album. Their record company didn’t want that, however, which meant that they’d have to start pruning.

Despite all the excess from which they had to choose, the album’s opening song would not be one they wrote in the pre-recording process. “Lay Your Hands on Me” was a spontaneous studio creation that Bon Jovi and Sambora wrote on demand.

One for the Fans

Bon Jovi’s output from the ’80s holds up today much better than that of their hair-band brethren, in large part due to their songwriting chops. But it can’t be denied they benefited from their connection to the heyday of MTV. Their clips, often based on their live performances, received serious airplay.

Hence, when their video team of director Wayne Isham and producer Curt Marvis visited the band, they suggested a song that wasn’t similar to the demos in place. They wanted something that would be a crowd-pleaser, one that would garner a big reaction from the fans at live shows, which would in turn make for a great video.

Bon Jovi and Sambora listened, and worked up “Lay Your Hands on Me” in the studio. The intent of the lyrics was to show the connection between band and fan base hadn’t changed any, regardless of the massive success. The ploy worked, as the song became the fourth of five Top Ten singles released from New Jersey.

What is the Meaning of “Lay Your Hands on Me”?

The lyrics of “Lay Your Hands on Me” sound like a one-on-one conversation between lovers, even though the wider message was meant for millions. It’s all about reciprocation, as the narrator promises satisfaction guaranteed, as long as his significant other steps up as well: So if you want me to lay your hands on you / Lay your hands on me.

The song allows Jon Bon Jovi to self-mythologize in ways that would make fellow New Jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen proud: I’m a fighter, I’m a poet, I’m a preacher / I’ve been to school and baby, I’ve been the teacher. All that experience has brought him to this point, where he can reach out with vulnerability to the person nearest him, and get beyond any hangups: Right now the rules we made were meant for breaking.

You can easily get caught up in the bombastic music of the song, but don’t miss out on subtly affecting lines like They say what you give is always what you need. That’s why “Lay Your Hands on Me” works so well. It’s a rock-hero anthem, but Bon Jovi also makes it seem like it’s coming from the sensitive boys next door.

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Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

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