How Bon Jovi Reached Out to Teens and Their Parents

Unlike many of their big-haired pop-metal peers, Bon Jovi knew how to reach out to kids. Their concerts featured rousing songs and a message of hope, while Jon Bongiovi’s infectious smile made him seem more like a friendly benevolent dictator than a rock star. Whether he’s singing about a love affair or the loss of a loved one, the band’s music resonates with teenagers and their parents alike.

The band’s roots go back to the early 1980s, when New Jersey native Jon Bongiovi started writing and performing original material in local clubs. By the time he was 21, Bon Jovi had a recording contract and a band of his own. He had picked up bassist Alec John Such, drummer Tico Torres and keyboardist David Bryan. The group’s first two albums were moderate successes, but it was their 1986 blockbuster Slippery When Wet and its hit singles “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Livin’ on a Prayer” that launched the group to megastardom.

As they worked on their next album, New Jersey, the band’s management company encouraged them to tweak their image for the more teen-oriented audience. Gone was the long hair and leather outfits. A clean-cut crew was introduced, and the band’s sound evolved to incorporate rhythm and blues elements. The band’s popularity soared with the release of New Jersey and its subsequent hit singles. The group also went on a huge world tour in support of the record, and they joined forces with Bob Geldof to perform at the first Live Aid benefit concert in 1985.

Following New Jersey, the band released a greatest hits album called Cross Road and its hit single “Bed of Roses.” Around this time, bassist Such left the group, but was replaced by former Message singer Richie Sambora, who remains with the band today. The band’s fifth studio album, Keep the Faith, followed in 1992 and gave the group another Top Ten hit with “I Don’t Want to Live Anymore.” The same year, Bon Jovi released their eighth record, Crush, which included their biggest hit song to date, “It’s My Life.”

In the wake of September 11 attacks, the band released a compilation of acoustic songs, This Left Feels Right, and toured again. In 2002, the band released their ninth album, Bounce, which marked their first release with Island Records.

In 2004, Bon Jovi released a box set titled 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong, which was intended to honor the band’s immense success. The discs contained 38 previously unreleased tracks and a DVD. The band continued to tour and perform in the decade that followed, raising money for hurricane relief and supporting a range of charitable causes. The band re-released several of their albums with bonus tracks and remastered versions, including the 2004 release Bounce. The group is currently working on a new studio album, expected to be released in 2020.