The Rise of Bon Jovi

After ushering in the era of big-haired pop-metal with 1986’s blockbuster Slippery When Wet, Bon Jovi went on to transcend the ’80s, withstanding changes in style and sound to become one of the biggest American rock bands of all time. The band’s appeal was international, with New Jersey-based juggernauts like You Give Love a Bad Name, Wanted Dead or Alive and Livin’ on a Prayer becoming the inescapable soundtrack of the decade. Bon Jovi has remained a staple on the music scene for over four decades, releasing more than 35 albums and securing more than 100 top-ten hits in the U.S. alone.

Jon Bon Jovi (born Jon Bongiovi) grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Staten Island and was raised by a single mother after his father died when he was quite young. He swept floors in his cousin’s recording studio as a young man and cut his first record, Runaway, in 1982. The song blasted onto the New York rock radio scene and led to the formation of Bon Jovi in 1983.

The band’s eponymous debut album (1984) and 7800deg Fahrenheit (1985) were moderate hits, but the group became an overnight success with 1986’s Slippery When Wet, which sold a hefty number of copies and generated the Top 40 hits You Give Love a Bad Name, Wanted and Dead or Alive and Livin’ on a Prayer. The follow-up, New Jersey (1988), was a more mature effort with adult contemporary-styled ballads that helped to sustain the band’s popularity, with Cross Road and Keep the Faith following in the same vein.

In 1992, Bon Jovi began to slow down the tempo and focus on storytelling with Keep the Faith, which produced a hit single in Bed of Roses and a successful greatest-hits collection called The Circle. The band continued to evolve with the release of These Days in 1995, which became a huge hit in both the United States and Europe and yielded another ballad in the form of This Ain’t a Love Song. The group’s fourth LP, Bounce, released in 2000, was a direct response to the September 11 attacks and delivered the chart-topping hits Lower the Flag and Do What You Can.

Over the course of the 2010s, Bon Jovi members pursued solo projects. Guitarist Sambora issued the album Aftermath of the Lowdown in 2012 and drummer Tico Torres released the country-infused solo album Burning Bridges. The band then regrouped for 2015’s aptly titled full-length Bon Jovi 2020, which was both direct and politically charged, qualities that crystallized on the songs American Reckoning and Do What You Can.

With this album, the band shifted gears and began to incorporate elements of soft rock and country, which helped them stay relevant in a changing musical landscape. Bon Jovi also made forays into acting, with Jon starring in 12 credited movies to date and the entire band appearing on the Hulu docuseries Thank You, Goodnight: The Story of Bon Jovi.