Desmond Child’s new memoir Livin’ On A Prayer: Big Songs Big Life (released September 19) was a 7-year project for the prolific songwriter and producer who seems to turn out hits faster than you can say “Bon Jovi.” While some might dive into the book hoping for a how-to on finding the kind of success Child has achieved in the music business, most will find more empowering lessons between the lines of this page-turner.
Livin’ On A Prayer, written with David Ritz, reads like a colorful feature film moving the reader through a painful childhood and family story marked by turmoil, poverty, secrecy, drive, and talent into a hard to crack industry tainted by greed, jealousy, and narcissism. Child is the rags-to-riches hero, the kid with talent, now quick to admit that determination, a non-stop work ethic, chance meetings, and luck all played a part.
“My mom passed away 11 years ago, and she was a songwriter. And she was a real hustler. She just wanted to make it so bad. And being an immigrant, not really mastering English, and living in poverty, held her back a lot,” explained Child in a recent interview describing his mother’s sacrifices to give him opportunity.
“And so I wanted to make it for her sake. Well, you know, I just got so lucky so early, having met Paul Stanley of KISS, who gave me my first big chance. And we wrote a song together called “I Was Made for Loving You.”
And the rest is history? Childs corrects me. “The rest is KISStory.”
Maybe, but Child’s music made that chance happen. Stanley says he was blown away by the music of Desmond Child & Rouge, the rock band Child founded in 1975 with singers Miriam Valle, Maria Vidal and Diana Grasselli. Child was the guy on stage and in the spotlight, hardly a huge star, but gaining attention and a significant fanbase. Stanley’s connection would soon put Child behind the scenes as he helped shine the spotlight on others.
Building Brands Through Songwriting
The songwriter and producer says his collaborations have always focused on understanding someone’s story and guiding them to be their best selves.
“If I had just remained in Desmond Child & Rouge and a star myself, I would never have written ‘Living On a Prayer’ with Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. That would have never happened. I would have, if I even had a glimmer of that idea, I would have kept it for myself. So the way I’ve done it, I planted seeds in all of these different, you know, settings, and then they go out and sell it. And so that’s why I’ve been able to sell over 500 million records and billions of streams since those were recorded. And so I think, in a certain way, now that I’ve lived this long, a lot of the songs I’ve collaborated on have become more famous than the stars that sang them. Because you can go all over the world, you could go into the jungles and people recognize a song. They don’t know who sang it.”
In the end, Child has built a resumé that includes collaborations with a Who’s Who of music royalty including Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Cher, Ricky Martin, Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks, Kiss, Dolly Parton, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, and Meatloaf. “Livin’ on a Prayer” captures some of the tales associated with those relationships—fascinating snapshots of personalities, kindness, tantrums, and tactics. Child’s book is hardly a tell-all, and when push comes to shove, he’s sharing more of his flaws than anyone else’s. Self-awareness abounds and he offers that up with the same candor.
From “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “You Give Love A Bad Name” to “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” and “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” Child’s writing and collaborations have helped brand bands and capture fans. Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008, Child co-founded the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame. He serves on the Board of Directors for the former as well as the Board of ASCAP. His work has resulted in over 80 Billboard Top 40 singles and sales of over 500 million records worldwide with downloads, YouTube views, and streaming plays in the billions.
Behind the track record were endless hours and late nights as a “studio rat” and frequent travel that interfered with precious family time with partner Curtis Shaw and twin sons Roman and Nyro. The memoir was inspired by Child’s desire to capture his story for his children, now 21 and off at college. “I wanted to put in writing, you know, the essence of who I am, so that they get to know me as a human being and a soul.”
Child has laid out complicated tales and woven them into a timeline that illustrates not only the impact of political upheaval on his Cuban-born mother and her family but the trajectory of his journey within the ever-changing cultural and music landscape. Leaving home in his late teens, he faced continued challenges while exploring his sexuality in a world struck by AIDS and an industry that wasn’t embracing LGBTQ artists and producers.
In addition to Living On A Prayer: Big Songs Big Life, Child has another family-inspired project on the burner. “I’ve written a musical called Cuba Libre, with Davitt Sigerson and Jeffrey Hatcher, and we started that in 2005. So making a Broadway show is— it takes longer than painting the Sistine Chapel,” says Child about the production that is slated to be workshopped in December.
“I think it’s a timeless story. And, you know, it’s so great in a way to immortalize some of the characters that were my aunts and my uncle and my grandfather— to immortalize them in a beautiful artistic way.”
As if that wasn’t enough, the songwriter has jumped into the skincare business with a recent soft launch of his Desmond Child Vida Loca Skinlife (“Skin has no gender.”). He points out that Brad Pitt and Kim Kardashian have skin care lines. Can he find success in another competitive market? Desmond Child is hoping for a hit.