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Members include Jon Bon Jovi (born John Bongiovi on March 2, 1962, in Sayreville, NJ; son of John [a hairdresser] and Carol [owner of a gift shop] Bongiovi; married Dorothea Hurley, 1989; two children), vocals, guitar; David Bryan (born David Bryan Rashbaum, c. 1962, in Edison, NJ; married April McLean, 1990; three children), keyboards; Hugh McDonald(replaced Alec John Such), bass; Richie Sambora (born c. 1959 in Woodbridge, NJ; replaced Dave Sabo, c. 1983; married Heather Locklear, 1994; one daughter), guitar; Alec John Such (born c. 1952 in Perth Amboy, NJ; left group, 1994), bass; Hector "Tico" Torres (born c. 1954 in Colonia, NJ; married Eva Herzigova, 1996; divorced, 1998), drums. Addresses: Record company--Island Def Jam, 825 8th Avenue 24th Floor, New York, NY 10019, website: http://www.islandrecords.com. Website--Bon Jovi Official Website: http://www.bonjovi.com.
``Bon Jovi was responsible for the most organic-sounding technopop-metal hybrids of the '80s,'' wrote Spin's Chuck Eddy in 1993 of the megapopular five-member band named after its lead singer, Jon Bon Jovi. Credited as one of the creators of ``metal lite'' or ``pop metal''--heavy metal rock softened by top 40 lyrics--the band rose to prominence with the help of millions of MTV-watching teenage listeners during a decade dominated by pop giants Madonna and Michael Jackson. Eddy characterized Bon Jovi's sound as ``dirty-white-boy guitars, a pinch of rockabilly twang, and maybe a couple of classically orchestrated disco strings'' in his critique of the band's chartbusting 1986 album Slippery When Wet. Indeed, the New Jersey rockers who are the state's second-most-famous musical export (after working-class hero Bruce Springsteen), have not only survived but thrived in an ever-changing, intensely competitive industry. Thanks to their music skills, carefully polished image, loyalty to fans, and collective good looks, Bon Jovi has sold more than 90 million records globally. ``We just want kids to have fun, nothing more--and nothing less,'' [Jon Bon Jovi] stated in a 1986 interview in Rolling Stone. ``We aren't U2, we aren't gonna change the world.... We're a rock band, and that's all we're supposed to be.''
Born on March 2, 1962, in Sayreville, New Jersey, Jon Bon Jovi is the oldest son of Italian-Americans John and Carol Bongiovi. John Sr., a hairdresser, was notorious for closely cropping his three young sons' hair. Mrs. Bongiovi, a gift-shop owner and former Playboy bunny, planted the seed of her son's love of music when she brought home a guitar for seven-year-old Jon. ``I was very much the average American kid,'' he told Jill Selsman in Interview. ``I wanted to be an astronaut, a cop, or a baseball player. I remember my first experience with a guitar very well.... I flung it down the steps and heard it going oing, oing, oing. I remember hearing that and thinking, that's pretty cool. It took another seven years for me to want to get into it, though.''
As a teenager Jon was influenced by the music of folk rocker Bob Dylan, Irish mystic-soulman Van Morrison, and fellow New-Jerseyites Springsteen and South Side Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. He played in several bands, including the Atlantic City Expressway (his first), the Rest, and the Raze. A highlight of his early career came when Springsteen joined the Atlantic City Expressway onstage for an impromptu jam session in an Asbury Park nightclub, a ``near religious'' experience for Jon.
Following high school graduation, the already ambitious singer and musician was ready to leave Sayreville, an industrial town he considered a dead end. Jon's cousin, Tony Bongiovi, part-owner of the Power Station, a well-known New York City recording studio, gave him a job sweeping floors. The perks of the position included rubbing elbows with Rolling Stone Mick Jagger and pop star David Bowie and recording demo tapes with professional back-up bands during non-peak hours. During this period, Jon attempted to interest record companies in his music, with little success.
``Runaway'' Kicked off Career
In 1982 one of Jon's demo songs, ``Runaway,'' became a surprise hit following local radio airplay of a compilation album featuring amateur groups. Soon thereafter, the budding rock star was signed by Mercury Records, a division of PolyGram, and suddenly found himself in need of a permanent band. He assembled some of his early Jersey Shore mates--Tico Torres, Dave Bryan, Alec John Such, and Dave Sabo, who was eventually replaced by Richie Sambora--as The Wild Ones and watched Mercury turn ``Runaway'' into a national hit. Properly marketing the band, which had since become simply Bongiovi, was critical to Mercury executives, who insisted on a spelling change to minimize what they apparently deemed the too-Italian character of Jon Bon Jovi's surname. Thus was born the phoneticized Bon Jovi; the singer took this opportunity to change his name as well. Though the band would develop a strong group identity, Mercury did not offer Torres, Bryan, Such, and Sambora a contract, effectively making them Jon's employees.
In 1984 the group released its first album, Bon Jovi, and began touring as the opening act for established acts such as .38 Special, Ted Nugent, Eddie Money, Judas Priest, and ZZ Top. As his ensemble began to enjoy coast-to-coast attention, Jon Bon Jovi landed in the middle of lawsuit brought by his cousin Tony, who claimed to have advanced Jon's career and now wanted payment for his efforts. The suit was settled out of court, with Tony Bongiovi winning a producer's credit, cash award, and royalties on the group's first release--as well as a one percent royalty on the next two albums. This infuriated Jon, who considered Tony's influence minimal at best. Despite the legal wrangling, the first album sold well and laid the groundwork for the band's basic sound: a big beat with catchy lyrics.
Bon Jovi was quickly followed in 1985 by 7800 Fahrenheit--the melting point of rock--which achieved platinum sales in 1987. Though critics were generally unimpressed with the band and considered them more ``fluff'' than ``stuff,'' the teenage crowd couldn't get enough of them. ``The whole younger rock movement was in dire need of someone to come along and be a superstar,'' national radio programmer Fred Jacobs explained to the Detroit Free Press, elaborating, ``The pop ranks have had so many people in the past few years ... but the young rockers really haven't had anybody to get them into the arenas and throw their fists in the air and get nuts about.''
In 1986, Slippery When Wet, Bon Jovi's third and best-selling album to date was released to largely positive reviews. Audiences savored the combination of heavy metal guitar crunch and upbeat lyrics. With singles like ``You Give Love a Bad Name,'' ``Living on a Prayer,'' and ``Wanted Dead or Alive,'' the band had reached a new plateau of success. This was due, in part, to the increasing prominence of music videos, which allowed for superior marketing of the ``videogenic'' quintet. ``Nobody knew what Bon Jovi was,'' guitarist Richie Sambora later told the Detroit Free Press. ``It could've been a spaghetti or a jeans company for all they knew. We said, `No actors, no actresses, no concept. We're going for simplicity. Just come and film us live, at a show.' All of a sudden, Bon Jovi became Bon Jovi. It was clearly defined. What's Bon Jovi? It's a rock 'n' roll band.''
Sambora also attributed the album's success to the group's ability to fill a niche in the music business. ``There was a need by the people for a Bon Jovi,'' he said in a 1989 Rolling Stone interview, echoing radio programmer Jacobs. ``Just a good-time entertainment band, you know? A bridge between [pop crooner] Phil Collins and [hard rock outfit] Whitesnake.'' Despite this confidence, the group was ill prepared for their emerging superstar status and experienced some growing pains. ``With the first two albums, we were happy to have enough money to go to McDonald's,'' Jon Bon Jovi told Edna Gundersen of USA Today. ``We went through the phase of buy, buy, buy!,'' he continued. ``It's hard to grow up when that kind of success is thrust upon you.''
But grow up they did. The band embarked on a grueling world tour to promote Slippery When Wet, which had reached number one on the album charts, then immediately launched into writing and recording its follow-up, New Jersey, released in 1988. That album generated more hits, including ``Lay Your Hands on Me,'' ``Bad Medicine,'' ``I'll Be There for You,'' and ``Blood on Blood,'' ultimately reaching number one. High Fidelity's Ken Richardson wrote of the album, ``The first ten minutes are absolutely thrilling: `Lay Your Hands on Me' proves the band can play undiluted metal, and `Bad Medicine' proves it can add some of that mean streak to its pop sense.''
New Jersey was the first American album released on the former U.S.S.R.'s state-owned record company Melodiya, a move that prompted Bon Jovi to visit the Soviet Union during the its 16-month tour. Though completely unintentional, Jon Bon Jovi took some flak on the home front for naming the album after his home state as it was perceived as a jab at Bruce Springsteen. ``I went to hell for calling the album New Jersey,'' he groused in the Chicago Tribune. ``Springsteen owns the state. Somewhere along the line, when nobody was looking, he bought it.''
The band would not release another album for four years--an eternity in pop music; rumors abounded that the group was on the verge of splitting. The band members were, in fact, suffering from severe burnout, the result of virtually non-stop recording and touring. ``For years we spent every waking moment together, even vacations,'' said Sambora in a 1992 article in USA Today. ``People thought we were crazy to live, eat and breathe this band. We needed to get away from each other.''
During the self-imposed hiatus from 1989 to 1991, both Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi released solo albums. Jon's Blaze of Glory (1990), a collection of songs written for or inspired by the western Young Guns II, delivered tumbleweed authenticity but didn't overwhelm critics. The title track was ``a slow, dusty clone of `Wanted Dead or Alive,''' according to People's Craig Tomashoff. Greg Sandow of Entertainment Weekly called it ``thin if you don't share his cowboy thang'' and rated it a C+. Sambora's solo album, Stranger in This Town (1991), fared only marginally better with Sandow, who awarded it a B-, remarking, ``Gotta love Richie Sambora's solo meditations for their brooding mood. But only a few of the songs stand out.''
Several significant events in Jon Bon Jovi's life occurred during the break from the band: In 1989 he married his girlfriend of ten years, Dorothea Hurley; two years later he started his own label, Jambco Records, and produced albums for Aldo Nova and Billy Falcon, as well as producing and co-writing songs for Cher, Stevie Nicks, and Hall & Oates. He and Sambora also set off on a two-week cross-country motorcycle trip that would significantly affect their creative juices; formerly apolitical, the two observed some of the country's social ailments first-hand and decided to incorporate awareness-raising messages into their next album, thereby displaying a new maturity. On the image front, Jon Bon Jovi revamped his style by cutting his trademark dirty-blond tangle of hair; the result was a more contemporary look for the matinee-idol-handsome heartthrob.
Although 1992's much-anticipated Keep the Faith debuted at number five on the Billboard charts, the fully rested Bon Jovi were concerned about the album's long-term prospects. Much had changed on the hard rock scene since the success of New Jersey, with Seattle's so-called ``grunge'' bands Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana riding an unprecedented alternative-rock wave of popularity. Undeterred, Jon Bon Jovi faced this challenge head-on, dismissing long-time manager Doc McGhee and undertaking management of the band himself.
``Success is a funny thing,'' he told Roy Trakin in a 1993 Music Express interview. ``I enjoyed it, but no one seemed to care for the five of us the way they cared about keeping the machine running. By the time the New Jersey tour was over, nobody even said goodbye to one another.'' ``We're on our own now,'' he continued. ``It's five grown-up guys who are supporting ourselves with no one to congratulate or blame but ourselves.... This is our turn on the firing line, and we'll see what comes of it.''
Critical reaction to Keep the Faith was lukewarm despite a major publicity effort by Mercury. Spin's Eddy called "Dry County," inspired by Jon's motorcycle trek to California, ``[an] interminable opus about economic depression in a hamlet where booze is illegal.'' Of ``Bed of Roses''--which nonetheless became a hit--Eddy wrote, ``Sounds like Billy Joel--a vodka-soaked holy-ghost piano waltz.'' Yet Rolling Stone praised ``I'll Sleep When I'm Dead,'' assessing, ``This booming combination of hammerhead vocal hooks and weekend-warrior hedonism is classic Bon Jovi. If Jon and the boys didn't invent this sure-shot formula, they certainly own the patent.''
Though not the smash of their former efforts, Keep the Faith seemed to satisfy fans, and Jon Bon Jovi was confident that the band's core group of admirers would truly ``keep the faith.'' Criticism in some circles that he had ``sold out'' to commercial interests led the rock veteran to respond in USA Today: ``For the first time I'm not impressed with money or numbers. I got wiser and I learned to deal with success.... I can take valid criticism very easily, but not from a gunslinger out to beat me up before he even listens to the album. There are certain critics in the world who aren't ever going to like me no matter what. What can I do? I'm not out to make them happy.''
Hoping to capitalize on the release of their multiplatinum-selling greatest hits collection entitled Cross Road, Bon Jovi released These Days in 1995. The album featured the lead single "This Ain't A Love Song," "Diamond Ring, " an acoustic ballad, and "Something for the Pain," a true rock song. "I think it's the most introspective record we've done," Jon Bon Jovi told Billboard in 1995. The group toured widely in support of the album, including three sold-out shows at Wembley Stadium in London, England. The year 2000 saw the release of Crush, the group's first album for Island/Def Jam Music Group after the label subsumed Mercury Records in a merger between Universal/PolyGram. David E. Thigpen of Time called the album "a piece of vintage '90s pop-metal, as straightforward as a stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike." Though not the blockbuster success of Slippery When Wet,the album was certified multiplatinum in 2001.
Jon Bon Jovi has enjoyed a budding career as an actor, appearing in such films as Moonlight and Valentino in 1995, Destination Anywhere in 1997, Homegrown in 1998, U-571 in 2000, and Pay It Forward in 2001. He and Sambora continue to build successful solo careers, and Torres has looked beyond the stage to find success as an artist and as the creator of a baby clothing line called Rock Star Baby.
by Mary Scott Dye
Bon Jovi's Career
Band formed as the Wild Ones in New Jersey, c. 1982; signed by PolyGram Records; released self-titled debut album, 1984; toured former U.S.S.R., c. 1988; Jon Bon Jovi founded Jambco Records, 1991; released Keeping the Faith, 1992; released greatest hits collection, Cross Road, 1994; released These Days, 1995; released Crush, 2000.
- Selected discography
- Bon Jovi Mercury, 1984.
- 7800 Fahrenheit Mercury, 1985.
- Slippery When Wet Mercury, 1986.
- New Jersey Mercury, 1988.
- Keep the Faith Mercury, 1992.
- Cross Road , Mercury, 1994.
- These Days , Mercury, 1995.
- Crush , Island/Mercury, 2000.
- One Wild Night: Live 1985-2001 , Universal, 2001.
November 16, 2004: Bon Jovi's box set, 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_1/index.jsp, November 16, 2004.
- Billboard, June 12, 1993; May 20, 1995; May 13, 2000.
- Chicago Tribune, March 19, 1989.
- Detroit Free Press, March 8, 1987; May 25, 1987.
- Entertainment Weekly, December 11, 1992.
- High Fidelity, January 1989.
- Interview, December 1990.
- Music Express, January 1993.
- People, October 1, 1990; November 30, 1998.
- Rolling Stone, November 20, 1986; February 9, 1989, December 10, 1992.
- Spin, January 1993.
- Time, June 26, 2000, p. 74.
- USA Today, November 9, 1992.
- "Bon Jovi," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com (August 13, 2001).
- Bon Jovi Official Website, http://www.bonjovi.com (August 13, 2001).
- Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com (August 30, 2001).
- Recording Industry of America, http://www.riaa.com (August 13, 2001).
- Additional information for this profile was obtained from Jambco/PolyGram Records, 1992.
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