300 million albums worldwide. 70 Top Forty singles. At their first meeting, he wrote “Angel” with Steven Tyler in forty-five minutes. Who is Desmond Child? He’s a rock god, and you’re not worthy.
The Songwriting Hall of Famer writes and produces hit songs like the rest of us wipe our asses — often, well, and for others when they can’t do it themselves. Not only do you know a hefty load of Desmond Child-written songs, but I defy you to claim that there’s not at least one you love with all your being. If not, then I’m afraid I’m going to have to call “dead inside” and recommend that you cuddle some puppies or, I don’t know, do drugs until you feel feelings again.
Here’s just the cream off the top of Desmond Child’s legendary catalog. If it weren’t for how incredibly skilled he is at what he does, I’d be surprised that his body of work includes so many of my personal favorites, but that’s just how finely-honed the man’s instrument is. Hitmaking is an art, and he’s the Michelangelo of his time.
Bon Jovi – “You Give Love A Bad Name”
Like Bon Jovi? Then you like Desmond Child. “Livin’ on a Prayer,” the definitive Bon Jovi anthem? “Bad Medicine?” “Born To Be My Baby?” “This Ain’t A Love Song,” my first and forever go-to karaoke song? All DC. “You Give Love A Bad Name,” which might rock most of all, was written in Richie Sambora’s parents’ basement in New Jersey before becoming Bon Jovi’s first number one hit. Chills, right? Ooo, now I’ve gone all gooey over my own Bon Jovi experiences, both my first wonderful concert experience in Columbus, Ohio and my more recent and extravagant evening at the fabulous Hyde Lounge. Thank you, DC, for making those incredible nights possible.
Michael Bolton – “How Can We Be Lovers”
I don’t care if you’re the biggest hard-ass on planet Earth, I don’t care if your balls are made of volcanic rock — you start singing when that key change hits in Michael Bolton’s staggering “How Can We Be Lovers.” I know you do, because this is the power of Desmond Child. The magic inside that man’s head is what literally irresistible hits are made of.
Cher – “Just Like Jesse James”
“Just Like Jesse James” is a rock-solid empowerment ballad performed by the master of such. Cher’s taking this player down, folks, and it’s not going to be pretty. I go all thirty-year-old woman on this song at least a couple of times a month, rocking out in my car and feeling triumphant as all get-out. If Cher could show that handsome punk who’s boss, then surely no raggedy fool’s gonna get the better of me, and it’s all thanks to Desmond Child. As a footnote, I’d like to say that in 2014, the “’til your heart is cryin’ Indian” line feels a little strange coming out, but don’t worry: I change it to “cryin’ uncle” during car performances, which is so much less weird.
Ratt – “Givin’ Yourself Away”
Give it up for my favorite Ratt song! Okay, maybe that’s not saying much, but what a song. I’m not a person who focuses much on lyrics, nor are big, poppy blockbuster power ballads often known for their lyrical complexity, but like so many of Desmond Child’s songs, this one hits so close to home that I have to check to make sure none of the windows got broken. “Givin’ Yourself Away” captures a moment familiar to all of us who are well-versed in matters of the heart, one of the many you don’t think of until a song like this puts you right back in them. This humble Ratt song is as perfect an example as any of Desmond Child’s songwriting mastery.
Aerosmith – “What It Takes”
“What It Takes” is, you know, just my #4 favorite Aerosmith song of all time, better described as the definitive break-up song of all time. Without a doubt, this song wouldn’t be what it is without the superior stylings of the Toxic Twins, but the song itself is a perfect palette for their artistry. Where do these perfect choruses and melodies come from? Are they birthed fully formed from a split in Desmond Child’s immortal forehead? Jon Bon Jovi knows. Steven Tyler knows. The rest of us are shit out of luck. Other colossal Aerosmith hits of DC’s include “Dude (Looks Like A Lady),” the aforementioned “Angel,” “Crazy,” and “Hole in My Soul.” How many hit songs have you written? Not even one? Wow. Desmond Child’s making you look like a bitch right now.
Alice Cooper – “Poison”
Not only did DC write “Poison,” he wrote the entire 1989 Alice Cooper album Trash. You know, the one that revived Alice Cooper’s career, along with his 1986 The Nightmare Returns tour. The usual DC suspects — Jon Bon, Stevie T, Richie Sambora, and Joan Jett, among others — make appearances on the album, which featured the incredible “Poison,” which hit #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hey-o! Fucking wicked awesome ’80’s video alert!
Ricky Martin – “Livin’ La Vida Loca”
List of DC’s #1 hits not impressive enough for you so far, big shot? Have a little taste of “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” which sold 8 million copies worldwide and began a late-90s Latin pop explosion that to this day no one can fully explain, relying on that old standby, “It was the ’90s, man” to cover our deeds. It all started with one hot closeted guy shaking his perfectly formed hips to the beat of one hot song by Desmond Child. Guess what? DC also wrote “Shake Your Bon-Bon” and “She Bangs,” and just in case he needed a little more circa-2000 cred, he also gets a songwriting credit on “The Thong Song” for its reference to “Livin’ La Vida Loca.”
Clay Aiken – “Invisible”
“Invisible” is Clay Aiken’s masterpiece and a hit that’s close to my heart. It’s just got that DC stank on it, you know? Yeah, this song kind of sounds like it might’ve been dug out of the back of the Michael Bolton drawer, like “What’s this?” when Clay Aiken came on the scene, but it still works. Isn’t Clay Aiken the Michael Bolton of the early-2000s, anyway?
KISS – “I Was Made for Loving You”
If KISS was going to do disco, they were going to do it fucking hard. Who better to recruit than DC? This song is downright nasty. I feel like I’m being boned by KISS collectively while I listen to this song. I can smell the leather, for God’s sake. Oh, and DC also wrote fifteen other KISS songs while he was at it. Probably just dashed them off on the back of a Taco Bell wrapper, knowing him.
Desmond Child is still hard at it, having recently produced work for his old friends Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Bonnie Tyler, and Alice Cooper as well as Weezer, Tokio Hotel, and Katy Perry — not too shabby after forty years in the biz. If anybody’s interested in possibly getting together to build an altar to him, or maybe figuring out how to obtain a lock of his hair (because the song magic is probably in there, right?), then you know where to find me.
FMI: Desmond Child