The original version of the song “I’ll Stand by You” was recorded by English American rock band the Pretenders in 1994 and was their last successful single in North America. The song is notable for its theme of pledging love and faithful support in times of human tragedy and personal darkness. It was penned by Chrissie Hynde in collaboration with song-writing duo Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg and has been covered many times. “I’ll Stand by You” also became a major hit for British pop girl group Girls Aloud in 2004 and American singer-songwriter Carrie Underwood in 2007. Notably their success was in part due to the fact that they were recorded as charity singles.
The Pretenders original version was released as the second single from the album Last of the Independents in 1994 and reached number 16 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 10 in the United Kingdom. The music video for “I’ll Stand by You” features Chrissie Hynde caring for an ill man. Although not released as a charity single, since 2010 it’s been used in an appeal advert for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). The lyrical content make it the perfect charity song.
Girls Aloud’s version, recorded in 2004, was used as the official Children in Need charity single. It was their second number 1 on the UK singles chart. Their cover of the song was not well received by many music critics, some describing the effort as a karaoke version while others felt it deserved some credit. We’re in the latter camp, so next time you hear Girls Aloud’s version of “I’ll Stand by You” at Lovesongs247.com make your own judgement call!
Carrie Underwood released her version as a charity single for the show Idol Gives Back in 2007 and performed the song during a visit to Africa. A video shows Underwood singing to children and doing different activities with them. On its first few days of release the song sold 124,496 digital downloads which propelled it to a debut on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number 6.
Colombian singer Shakira also recorded a cover of “I’ll Stand by You” as a promotional charity single for the Hope for Haiti Now campaign in 2010. It was released in the wake of the devastating earthquake which hit the Caribbean island in that year.
Opinions about art and music can never escape subjectivity so while there will be debate on the stature and quality of some covers of this song and whether or not they’ve added anything to The Pretenders original version the consensus is that the lyrics and music of “I’ll Stand by You” constitute a good, uplifting song which will always be relevant and a rallying cry for all humans with a heart to support communities and individuals as they deal with distressing experiences. Life can be tough but it’s great to know that in difficult times others will be there to help you pull through.