The lyrics tell the story of a woman who is bored alone at home. She wants to speak to her man, but cannot reach him and considers leaving him, until a DJ plays a hot song and thereby saves her life. In the second verse, she leaves home, but does not reach her destination. The sound of squeaky wheels suggests she has an accident, but is saved by a DJ playing a good song on the radio.
The song was released as a single in 1982 and became the most popular and successful hit released by its record label, Sound of New York/Becket Records. In the U.S. "Last Night a D.J. Saved My Life" reached number ten on the R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart and number two on the Club Singles chart. In February 1983 it peaked at number thirteen in the United Kingdom, and in March 1983 at number two in the Dutch Top 40 and the Belgium Ultratop 50. The track appears as the third track of the namesake album released in 1983.
Rolling Stone magazine declared the song "one of the greatest songs ever written about being a girl, listening to the radio, or any combination of the two," and, in 2005, editors of Blendermagazine placed it at number 406 on its 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born list. The song also provided the inspiration of the title of the book Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey (2000).