Bon Jovi: A Look Back at Some of Its Biggest Hits

Known for its hugely successful 1980s releases, bon jovi has transcended the big-haired era and survived changes in music and fashion to become one of the most popular modern rock bands. In honor of the legendary band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this weekend, FRESH AIR’s David Bianculli looks back at some of its biggest hits.

In high school, Jon Bongiovi’s classmates headed off to college or went to work in factories, but the 22-year-old from Sayreville, New Jersey, stayed behind to play guitar and sing in a band that he put together with friends. He started writing original tunes, got a day job as a gopher in a recording studio and worked late nights to record demos.

Bon Jovi’s breakthrough came when they recorded their third album, Slippery When Wet, in 1986. The hit singles “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Wanted Dead or Alive” and the anthemic title track became hugely popular and put the group on the map. Bon Jovi toured relentlessly, earning more than a dozen million dollars per show and becoming the highest-earning band of their time.

The band’s most important development, though, was a change in their sound. They started to stray from heavy metal, focusing more on melody and ballads, while still remaining true to their rock roots. This shift helped them stand out from other MTV favorites of the ’80s and sustain their popularity well into the next century.

With a powerful sound that incorporated elements of hard rock and soft rock, Bon Jovi’s albums were filled with songs that spoke to everyday people. Drummer Tico Torres pounded out headbang-worthy beats, bassist Alec John Such laid down melodic licks and Jon Bon Jovi’s voice soared above the tight rock ensemble to shout out lyrics that celebrated love, lust and young adulthood.

The band’s 1989 release, New Jersey, was another chart-topper that reflected the changing times of the era. It was the first album to see Bon Jovi acclimate to the rise of hip-hop and R&B, but still maintain their signature sound. The album was a top 10 success in both the US and UK, and it marked their entry into a more mainstream arena of rock.

A year later, the band would release its most mature album to date, Keep the Faith. It was a number-one album that saw the band slowly begin to peep away their arena rock guitars and embrace power ballads. It also marked the start of the band’s long partnership with songwriter extraordinaire Desmond Child, who co-wrote most of the tracks on the album and continues to co-write for them in the present.

With the release of their newest album, Story of Love, in 2020, Bon Jovi proved that they’ve survived the era of MTV and can still connect with the current generation. It’s a thoughtful album that addresses gun control (Lower the Flag), the coronavirus crisis and the Black Lives Matter movement while embracing the classic sounds of rock.