ROGERS PARK — Inspired by Italians singing from their balconies in solidarity against the coronavirus, Chicagoans also stuck inside created a very American version Saturday night, belting out Jon Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” together online and in person.
The #chicagosingalong created by residents Jenni Spinner and Rebecca Kell extended well beyond their Rogers Park courtyard apartment building. Thousands around the area participated and posted videos online, from condo balconies to suburban cul-de-sacs.
Even Bon Jovi himself weighed in, posting an Instagram video and telling Chicago he was with them.
“Hey Chicago, I heard that you guys are about to open up your windows and scream and shout to ‘Livin on a Prayer,'” Bon Jovi said, while strumming an acoustic guitar. “I want you to know that I’m just warming up, ready to sing along with you. In these trying times, I’m with you with all of my heart and my soul. Sending my love to everybody in Chicago and across America. Sing it out, baby, we’re all going to get through this together. Be strong. I love you.”
As the clock struck 7 p.m., the lyrics of the now karaoke classic echoed through the Rogers Park apartment courtyard and across the area, belted out by social distance-practicing Chicagoans. Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday ordered everyone in the state to stay at home beginning at 5 p.m. Saturday unless they have jobs categorized as essential.
Chicago radio station 97.1 The Drive got in on the phenomenon, too, playing “Livin’ On A Prayer” right at 7 p.m. to provide the soundtrack.
The station posted on the singalong’s Facebook event page: “You guys are awesome. Just want to let everyone know that our music director at 97.1 The Drive changed the music library tonight so that Livin’ on a Prayer will play promptly at 7pm :)”
Spinner and Kell created the event after seeing the viral videos of Italians singing from their balconies amid the coronavirus outbreak. At their apartment building, once neighbors started singing, others joined in from different units. As the final chorus hit, one neighbor even began tossing rose petals out of the window while singing.
Despite the event having over 6,000 RSVPs, some neighbors were taken by surprise by the singing. Nevertheless, they joined in. Adilson Lorencini, who has lived in the building for 12 years and lives just above Kell and Spinner, was watching a movie when he heard singing.
“Suddenly I was like, ‘What the heck is going on? What music is that?’ Then I saw everybody singing so let’s sing too,” Lorencini said. “It’s a way to relax from everything that’s been happening.”
Hours before her neighbors took to their windows to belt the classic, Kell said she was feeling completely freaked out — yet happy — by the throngs of responses to what simply started with just an idea and a Facebook event.
“I’m happy we can do something to distract from the awfulness of the news, anxiety and stress,” Kell told Block Club Chicago Saturday morning.
Alissa Holterman, who lives a few units away from Kell and Spinner, said the singalong brought people together.
“A lot of us have lived in the building for a long time but don’t know each other really, so it was amazing to even just stick my head out, breathe some fresh air and see my neighbors,” Holterman said.
While the event was focused on Chicago, RSVPs to the event range from DeKalb to the United Kingdom, Australia and beyond – despite the drastic time zone differences.
Before the event, Eleonora Pattini Carlo Cattaneo of Italy posted in the event saying, “Hello from Italy, Bergamo. Here we have a very bad situation. 😬 This Is a wonderful idea, with my favorite band and their best song! ❤️”
For Brit Cooper Robinson of Edgewater, taking part in the singalong meant everything to be “simultaneously doing something” with so many people. Cooper Robinson said it was the best way of being together while staying safe.
Her two sons, ages six and three, took this moment of musical community to rock the show. As seen in this tweet, the boys dressed up in costume with mini guitars in hand.
The event gave the young boys something to look forward to as they transitioned to homeschooling. It was “their moment to be rockstars.”
Kell and Spinner have already created a follow-up Facebook event for next Saturday night and this time, the tune is “ABC” by The Jackson 5.
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
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