Pretenders – I’ll Stand By You

Chrissie Hynde wrote this with Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg. “I’ll Stand by You” was released as the second single from the  1994 album Last of the Independents. It’s a beautiful song that has been covered a few times.

The song peaked at #16 in the Billboard 100, #12 Canada, and #10 in the UK.

For Hynde, working with outside songwriters was different, as she was used to writing on her own. It ended up a very positive experience that led to more collaborations.

Chrissie had said she was uncomfortable about having such a hit but felt better after Noel Gallagher say “he wished he’d written it.”

Chrissie Hynde: “When I did that song, I thought, Urgh this is s–t. But then I played it for a couple of girls who weren’t in the business and by the end of it they were both in tears. I said, OK, put it out.”

From Songfacts

“Tom and I never had a publisher, we both published ourselves. Jason Dauman was somebody who, for a commission, was willing to provide some of the service that a publisher would. He once said to me, ‘Who would you like to collaborate with?’ and it was sort of an annoyance to me. I didn’t take him all that seriously, but almost facetiously I said, ‘Prince, Bruce Springsteen and Chrissie Hynde.

I said those names because they were three of my favorite songwriters and he sort of took it seriously. He went off and I just thought, ‘Well I got rid of him, didn’t I.’ Then a little while later he called me up and he said, ‘Chrissie Hynde wants to write with you and Tom,’ and I thought, ‘Right.’ So anyway, I get a phone call and this woman said, ‘Billy, this is Chrissie Hynde,’ and I thought somebody was playing with me or something. I couldn’t imagine it, but then in a minute it was quite clear that Chrissie was on the other end of the telephone.

Chrissie is a very complicated person, a very no-nonsense person especially when she doesn’t know you. She was a little intimidating on the phone. The butterflies in my stomach were fluttering so much I could barely speak because I love The Pretenders. She said she’d like to get together and write some songs with Tom and me, and I went, ‘Woo Hoo!’ She came to Los Angeles and she was so determined. She said, ‘I want to write a hit.’ Over a period of about two weeks Tom and I wrote a handful of songs with her. The first one we wrote together was called ‘Love Colors Everything.’ Then we wrote ‘Night In My Veins’ which was also a hit single, and we wrote ‘977,’ ‘Hollywood Perfume’ and ‘I’ll Stand By You.'”

Ben E. King’s song “Stand By Me” was a big influence on this.

Steinberg: “‘I’ll Stand By You,’ like the other hits that Tom and I wrote, started out as a lyric that I had in a notebook. I had the title and the chorus lyric. Chrissie is a very, very strong songwriter in her own right. She’s very ruthless, she would get out her pen or her pencil and I remember I was fascinated the way she would write in the notebook because she wouldn’t write on the lines. I use a Mont Blanc fountain pen and I tend to write kind of neatly. She would just scribble across pages. Very few lines would fit on a page and they wouldn’t stay on the line. I remember she would just take a pen and she would cross out any lines I had written that she didn’t like, and usually the lines that she didn’t like would be ones that were too tender or too poetic. She would toughen up stuff I’d written. On ‘I’ll Stand By You’ she added lines and changed lines.”

This was written based on the piano. Tom Kelly played the piano on the record.

Steinberg: “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. Whereas ‘Night In My Veins’ really felt like a great Pretenders rocker, ‘I’ll Stand By You’ felt a little generic. I know that Chrissie felt that way too to some extent. I don’t think she really entirely embraced it to begin with, but she certainly does now because when she plays it live, it’s one of the songs that gets the strongest response. It’s done really well for her and for us.” (Check out our Billy Steinberg interview.)

This song has returned to both the UK and US charts with different cover versions. In 2004 Girls Aloud achieved their second UK #1 with their version recorded for the annual BBC Children In Need charity telethon. Girl Aloud Sarah Harding explained in 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner & Spencer Leigh that the fivesome “were drawn to the lyrics straight away, we’ve all been in situations where we have needed someone or been there for someone.”

In 2007, Carrie Underwood achieved the highest chart entry by an Idol contestant for a song never performed on the show in competition when her version debuted in the Hot 100 at #6. Her record was later taken by David Archuleta, whose single “Crush” flew straight into the US singles chart at #2.

She added that this song was “really a cold-blooded attempt to write something to get on the radio.”

Other artists to cover this song include Rod Stewart (on his 2006 album Still the Same… Great Rock Classics of Our Time), and Shakira, who released it as a charity single for Hope for Haiti in 2010 to help with earthquake relief. In 2009, the Cast of Glee took the song back to the charts, reaching #73.

Hynde, a resident of England, didn’t know about the Rod Stewart or Carrie Underwood covers until we told her about them.

This was used in a 2013 commercial for Progressive Insurance where their spokesperson, Flo, sings the ballad. As with all songs written by Chrissie Hynde, PETA had to approve the use and royalties from it were sent to the organization.

I’ll Stand By You

Oh, why you look so sad?
Tears are in your eyes
Come on and come to me now
Don’t be ashamed to cry
Let me see you through

‘Cause I’ve seen the dark side too
When the night falls on you
You don’t know what to do
Nothing you confess
Could make me love you less

I’ll stand by you
I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you
I’ll stand by you

So if you’re mad, get mad
Don’t hold it all inside
Come on and talk to me now
Hey, what you got to hide?
I get angry too

Well I’m a lot like you
When you’re standing at the crossroads
And don’t know which path to choose
Let me come along
‘Cause even if you’re wrong

I’ll stand by you
I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you
I’ll stand by you
Take me in, into your darkest hour
And I’ll never desert you
I’ll stand by you

And when
When the night falls on you, baby
You’re feeling all alone
You won’t be on your own

I’ll stand by you
I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you

I’ll stand by you
Take me in, into your darkest hour
And I’ll never desert you
I’ll stand by you
I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you
I’ll stand by you
Won’t let nobody hurt you
I’ll stand by you, won’t let nobody hurt you
Take me in, into your darkest hour
And I’ll never desert you
I’ll stand by you

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

18 thoughts on “Pretenders – I’ll Stand By You”

    1. Cool! I will be looking forward to that. I’m a huge Pretenders/Chrissie fan.
      She has a way about her…her voice and phrasing. This song in someone else’s hand would sound completely different.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I know! This is so much fun doing this album draft. I have until September 2 to pick mine…and I’m happy about that long wait.
      I’m guessing either her debut or the one I would pick is Learning to Crawl.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. There are Pretenders songs I absolutely love and there those that make me want to shove ice picks in my ears. This is one of them. 2000 miles is another one. She is a rocker, not a crooner. I always wince when she croons.


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