Song Analysis – “We Weren’t Born To Follow” – Bon Jovi

[Who is it that wasn’t born to follow? We can look at it narrowly and interpret the words to mean that the band, Bon Jovi, wasn’t born to follow. But I think the song has a broader scope. It could easily apply to the United States. Americans do not see themselves as followers, but as leaders. It could have an even broader application and refer to all people. Maybe no man or woman was born to follow. Humans are endowed with significant brain power and formidable strength. Most of us are born with the potential to lead. Notice that Bon Jovi isn’t talking about whether or not people follow in reality. Instead he’s talking about destiny. The “we” he’s talking about, weren’t destined to be followers.]

This one goes out to the man who mines for miracles
This one goes out to the ones in need
This one goes out to the sinner and the cynical
This ain’t about no apology
This road was paved by the hopeless and the hungry
This road was paved by the winds of change
Walking beside the guilty and the innocent
How will you raise your hand when they call your name?
Yeah, yeah, yeah

[The song begins with a look at a man who “mines for miracles.” Most of us don’t realize what a difficult thing it is to be a miner. Miners toil miles underground in a cramped space of almost total darkness. Mining for miracles suggests searching long and hard for something precious. It’s interesting how the speaker pairs “the sinner and the cynical.” These are two distinct types of people although not mutually exclusive ones. The sinner is one who has made mistakes before God. The cynical person refuses to believe. A sinner may still have faith and a cynical person may eschew sin.

When he says the song isn’t about an apology, he’s setting a bold, courageous tone. I like the line, “This road was paved by the hopeless and the hungry.” In a literal sense, our roads are built by people in the lower strata of society. When we are driving or riding in cars, how often do we stop to think about the work it took to construct the roads right beneath our feet? We don’t pay these people a lot or sow our gratitude to them, but without their work, our quality of life would be much less. In a figurative sense, “paving the way” means making a journey easier for the one who will follow you. I feel like this line is speaking about my parents, who came to the U.S. in the 1970’s, who struggled against racism and hard economic realities in order to make life easier for my generation.

Near the end of this stanza, Bon Jovi asks, “How will you raise your hand when they call your name?” This follows a line about guilt and innocence. I think what Bon Jovi is hinting at is that we will all face judgment. Judgment comes in many forms – from the way neighbors judge a new arrival to a suburb, to the way courts judge plaintiffs and defendants, to the Day of Judgment when all of humanity will testify before Allah. He is saying that in the mere act of raising one’s hand, one may reveal one’s guilt or innocence. ]
We weren’t born to follow
Come on and get up off your knees
When life is a bitter pill to swallow
You gotta hold on to what you believe
Believe that the sun will shine tomorrow
And that your saints and sinners bleed
We weren’t born to follow
You gotta stand up for what you believe
Let me hear you say yeah, yeah, yeah, oh yeah

[Here is where the title of the song first appears. Being on one’s knees suggests servitude or even begging. It represents an extreme form of following. It’s possible that there is a hidden political statement here. Many Americans are concerned about the extent to which Middle Eastern oil barons and Chinese industrialists control our republic. Maybe Bon Jovi is telling Congressmen to stop kowtowing to foreign interests. He stresses the importance of staying true to one believes. He’s talking about living by principles rather than being a shill to the dollar. He connects living by principles to optimism – the belief that “the sun will shine tomorrow.” I think one can argue that pessimists can be true to their principles too, but extreme pessimism and depression lead people into desperation. When people are desperate, they often compromise or even abandon their principles just to survive.

But Bon Jovi tempers this optimism with a dose of reality, saying “And [believe] that your saints and sinners bleed.” Regardless of one’s level of morality, one will suffer in life because that is the nature of existence. No true prophet would ever promise his followers freedom from suffering in this life. It may seem just that sinners suffer, but why do saints suffer? If people are following the path of God, why should they suffer? This is how God tests faith and makes it stronger. If saints lived happy, easy lives, then faith would be a simple act. People would believe in God and automatically their problems would disappear. How would anyone know if people believed in God for His own sake or just because it made their lives easy?  God wants to test if people truly believe in Him. When someone can lose their loved ones, their home, their job, their health or any of the blessings in his or her life, yet remain devoted to God, he or she shows a tremendous level of faith. When we experience hardship in life, but refuse to leave our principles, we fulfill our destinies that predict our future as strong, independent, thinking leaders.]

This one’s about anyone who does it differently
This one’s about the one who cusses and spits
This ain’t about our livin’ in a fantasy
This ain’t about givin’ up or givin’ in
Yeah, yeah, yeah

We weren’t born to follow
Come on and get up off your knees
When life is a bitter pill to swallow
You gotta hold on to what you believe
Believe that the sun will shine tomorrow
And that your saints and sinners bleed
We weren’t born to follow
You gotta stand up for what you believe
Let me hear you say yeah, yeah, yeah, oh yeah x2

[guitar solo]

We weren’t born to follow
Come on and get up off your knees
When life is a bitter pill to swallow
You gotta hold on to what you believe
Believe that the sun will shine tomorrow
And that your saints and sinners bleed
We weren’t born to follow
You gotta stand up for what you believe
Let me hear you say yeah, yeah, yeah, oh yeah x2

We weren’t born to follow – oh yeah x2

Advertisements
  1. #1 by free palm pre on October 24, 2009 - 6:57 am

    Excellent article, bookmarked for future referrence

  2. #2 by Josh Lipovetsky on December 2, 2009 - 3:26 pm

    Hello Asad,

    This article is beautifully written. I am writing an analysis of each song on the Bon Jovi album as well. It will be on my website in a week or so.

    Great job!
    Josh Lipovetsky.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: