Songs for Sound Minds are our picks of the best music that uplifts, inspires and boosts mental health. Songs written as an anthem to overcoming the storms of life. The songs that give hope in those times when we are struggling.
This week’s pick by The Pretenders was suggested by one of our followers on Facebook: a timeless classic about love and faithfulness in times of trouble. A song made special, not by the experiences of those who wrote it, but by those who heard it.
‘I’ll Stand By You’ by The Pretenders
‘I’ll Stand by You’ started out as a joke that turned into a dream come true for songwriter Billy Steinberg. During a conversation with music publisher Jason Dauman, Steinberg was asked who he wanted to collaborate with in the future.
Prince, Bruce Springsteen and Chrissie Hynde
Thinking the question a joke, Steinberg replied somewhat facetiously: “Prince, Bruce Springsteen and Chrissie Hynde.”
“I said those names because they were three of my favourite songwriters and he sort of took it seriously. Then a little while later he called me up and he said, ‘Chrissie Hynde wants to write with you and Tom (Tom Kelly, Steinberg’s writing partner).’ And I thought, ‘Right.’”
“I get a phone call and this woman said, ‘Billy, this is Chrissie Hynde,’ and I thought somebody was playing with me or something.”
Star struck and a little soft
Despite writing hits like ‘Eternal Flame’ and ‘Like a Virgin’, Steinberg was star struck: “The butterflies in my stomach were fluttering so much I could barely speak because I love The Pretenders.”
Hynde joined Steinberg and Kelly in Los Angeles and their efforts created a total of six songs, including ‘I’ll Stand by You’; but Pretenders fan Steinberg had mixed feelings.
“I remember when we wrote it I felt two things. I felt one, we had written a hit song; and I felt two, a little sheepish that we had written something a little soft, a little generic for The Pretenders… I know that Chrissie felt that way too to some extent.”
The dream turns sour
In an interview with Mojo Chrissie Hynde admitted being unimpressed with the tune: “When I did that song, I thought, Urgh this is s–t.”
As the dream turned sour for Steinberg hope emerged in the form of an impromptu gig.
Despite her initial disappointment with the track, Hynde pressed on: “I played it for a couple of girls who weren’t in the [music] business and by the end of it they were both in tears. I said, OK, put it out.”
The universality of the lyrics that Steinberg feared were too soft and generic is exactly what makes ‘I’ll Stand by You’ such a special song.
It speaks of complete love and unquestioning support when we are at our weakest. The kind of love that means someone is there to wipe away our tears and walk with us.
Thanks to Steinberg, Kelly and Hynde we can experience the shared understanding that we all feel that way sometimes. And that we all want to be there to stand by someone we care about.