Bon Jovi Biography

This commercial hard rock band, formed in New Jersey, USA, is fronted by Jon Bon Jovi (John Francis Bongiovi Jnr., 2 March 1962, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, USA; vocals). His four co-founders were Richie Sambora (b. Richard Stephen Sambora, 11 July 1959, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, USA; guitar, ex-Message), David Bryan (b. David Rashbaum, 7 February 1962, Edison, New Jersey, USA; keyboards), Tico Torres (b. 7 October 1953; drums, ex-Franke And The Knockouts), and Alec John Such (b. 14 November 1956; bass, ex-Message). Bongiovi, of Italian descent, met Bryan (ex-Phantom’s Opera) at Sayreville High School, where they shared a mutual interest in rock music. They soon joined eight other musicians in the R&B cover band Atlantic City Expressway. When Bryan moved to New York to study at the Juilliard School of Music, Bongiovi followed. Charming his way into the Power Station recording studios, which was owned by his cousin Tony, he performed menial tasks for two years before Billy Squier agreed to produce his demo tape. One track, ‘Runaway’, was played on local radio and appeared on a local artist compilation album (his work would also grace oddities such as the novelty track, ‘R2D2 I Wish You A Merry Christmas’). Reunited with Bryan, he acquired the services of Sambora, an established session musician, Such (ex-Phantom’s Opera) and Torres (ex-Knockouts).

By July 1983, Bon Jovi had a recording contract with PolyGram Records and support slots with Eddie Money and ZZ Top, the latter at Madison Square Garden. Jon Bon Jovi’s looks attracted immediate attention for the band, and he turned down the lucrative lead role in the dance movie Footloose in order to concentrate on his music. Their debut album preceded a headline tour and support slots with the Scorpions, Whitesnake and Kiss. Their second album, 7800 Degrees Fahrenheit, was greeted with cynicism by the music press, which was already hostile towards the band’s manicured image and formularized heavy rock - this mediocre album only fuelled their scorn. The band responded in style: Slippery When Wet was the biggest-selling rock album of 1987, although it originally appeared in August 1986. Collaborating with songwriter Desmond Child, three of its tracks - ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’, ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ and ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ - were US and European hits. Headlining the Monsters Of Rock shows in Europe, they were joined on stage by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley (Kiss), Dee Snider (Twisted Sister) and Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) for an encore of ‘We’re An American Band’. It merely served to emphasize the velocity with which Bon Jovi had reached the top of the rock league. The tour finally finished in Australia after 18 months, while the album sold millions of copies. When New Jersey followed, it included ‘Living In Sin’, a Jon Bon Jovi composition that pointed to his solo future, although the song owed a great debt to his hero Bruce Springsteen.

The rest of 1989 was spent on more extensive touring, before the band temporarily retired. As Jon Bon Jovi commented, it was time to ‘Ride my bike into the hills, learn how to garden, anything except do another Bon Jovi record.’ He subsequently concentrated on his solo career, married karate champion Dorothea Hurley and appeared in his first movie, Young Guns II, and released a quasi-soundtrack of songs inspired by the film as his debut solo album in 1990. However, the commercial incentive to return to Bon Jovi was inevitably hard to resist. Keep The Faith, with a more stripped-down sound, was an impressive album, satisfying critics and anxious fans alike who had patiently waited almost four years for new material. To those who had considered the band a spent commercial force, the success of the slick ballad, ‘Always’, a chart fixture in 1994, announced no such decline. On the back of its success, Bon Jovi occupied the UK number 1 spot with the compilation set Crossroad. During this period original bass player Alec John Such was replaced by session player Hugh McDonald. Meanwhile, Bryan released his first solo album, through Phonogram in Japan, and Sambora married Hollywood actress Heather Locklear (ex-Dynasty).

The band’s next studio album These Days was a typically slick collection of ballads and party rock, and included the hit single ‘This Ain’t A Love Song’. With their position already secure as one of the world’s most popular rock bands, the album lacked ambition, and the band seemed content to provide fans with more of the same old formula. Their profile had never been greater than in 1995, when, in the annual readers poll of the leading UK metal magazine Kerrang!, the band won seven categories, including best band and best album (for These Days) and, astonishingly, worst band and worst album (for These Days)! These Days Tour Edition was a live mini-album released only in Australia.

Jon Bon Jovi began to nurture an acting career in the 90s with starring roles in Moonlight And Valentino and The Leading Man, and enjoyed further solo success with 1997’s Destination Anywhere. The band regrouped two years later to record their new album, Crush. Further commercial successes followed in the new millennium with Bounce (2002) and This Left Feels Right (2003), the latter featuring acoustic reworkings of their old songs.

The 2005 release Have A Nice Day was another global best-seller. The album included alternative versions of the track ‘Who Says You Can’t Go Home’. The ‘country’ version, recorded with Sugarland vocalist Jennifer Nettles, reached the top of the Billboard country chart the following April. In the process, Bon Jovi became the first rock act to top the country singles chart since 1944. The subsequent Lost Highway took this idea further with the band decamping to the home of country music, Nashville, Tennessee, to record, and enlisting the help of country stars Big And Rich and LeAnn Rimes on the tracks ‘We Got It Going On’ and ‘Till We Ain’t Strangers Anymore’.

Bon Jovi continue to bridge the gap between heavy metal and AOR with both style and ease, and somehow manage to remain in fashion.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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