May 21, 2024

Bionpa

You are Your Only Limit

From Their Big Break to Where They Stand Today

13 min read

There are few rock bands that have the longevity of Bon Jovi.

Formed in 1983 by singer Jon “Bon Jovi” Bongiovi Jr., keyboardist David Bryan, drummer Tico Torres, bassist Alec John Such and guitarist Richie Sambora, the band debuted its self-titled album in January 1984.

In the 40-plus years since, Bon Jovi has cemented its place in musical history. In 2017, CNN listed the group among the top-selling rock bands of all time. Bon Jovi has sold more than 130 million albums filled with rock anthems like “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ on a Prayer” and played more than 2,600 concerts for its fans.

The group’s lineup has changed several times, with Such, who died in June 2022, leaving the group in 1994 (bassist Hugh McDonald took over in his absence) and Sambora departing in 2013. (Guitarist Phil X officially took his place in 2016.) In recent years, guitarist John Shanks and percussionist Everett Bradley have also joined the band. Still, their shared experiences have forged an unbreakable brotherhood between all of its members, past and present.

“But just to be clear, there was nothing but love,” Jon told PEOPLE of Sambora’s sudden exit from the band over a decade ago. “There was never a fight. Ultimately being in a rock band is not a life sentence. He had to deal with his other issues.”

Bon Jovi during their first visit to Japan on August 4, 1984.

Gutchie Kojima/Shinko Music/Getty


Bryan added of the band’s determination to succeed, “We were relentless young men who set out to make it — and we made it.”

Now, Bon Jovi is immortalized in the Hulu docuseries Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story, which is the first series about the group’s history with full cooperation from past and present members.

Keep reading to find out more about the band, its origins, its highs and lows and where its members stand with each other.

Bon Jovi’s first hit was recorded before it was a band

Jon Bon Jovi in 1986.

Chris Walter/WireImage


Jon wrote the band’s first single, “Runaway,” at the age of 19, according to The Irish Times.

“I got the idea for the song when I was at the bus station, on the way to my janitor’s gig at the Power Station,” the singer told the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

However, Jon originally recorded the demo with studio musicians who could not be part of Bon Jovi. “The other guys on the demo all had commitments to other bands, so I had to form a new band,” he explained to The Independent in 1995.

Not only did he find new members, he stuck with them for decades. “It was supposed to be just for a couple of weeks, not for 11 years,” he mused.

Jon and Bryan played in a cover band together and Bruce Springsteen once joined them onstage

David Bryan and Jon Bon Jovi attend the Rolling Stone after party for the 2010 American Music Awards on Nov. 21, 2010 in Los Angeles.

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic


Keyboardist Bryan, who became Jon’s first Bon Jovi bandmate, opened up about meeting the singer as a teenager in a 2017 interview with The Morning Call. “We were, like, almost 17 years old and I joined his cover band and the journey started from there,” he said.

According to AP News, their horn-led cover band, which was called Atlantic City Expressway, earned $7 per night in 1979 and performed classic hits like Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood.”

The band also covered Bruce Springsteen: As Jon told Conan O’Brien on the podcast Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend in March 2023, the Boss once jumped up from the crowd to perform his own song with them.

“The first time Bruce jumped onstage with me, I was 17 years old,” Jon confirmed.

Sambora auditioned for KISS before joining Bon Jovi

Ritchie Sambora of Bon Jovi.

Ebet Roberts/Redferns


Before he was shredding solos on hits like “Wanted Dead or Alive,” Sambora was auditioning for the likes of KISS. The guitarist tried out to replace Ace Frehley after his departure from the band in 1982, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Shortly after returning from his audition in Los Angeles, Sambora, who had previously played in a band with Such, went to see his former bassist perform with his new band, Bon Jovi. “I thought Jon was so charismatic,” Sambora recalled to The Independent in 1995. “I went backstage and gave him a verbal resume. … About a week later, I got a call, inviting me to a rehearsal.”

Jon also recalled the meeting, saying, “Richie came down to see one of my shows. Afterwards, he made a point of meeting me and saying, ‘I’m the guy. I’m what you need.’ ”

Though Jon initially thought Sambora was “a little crazy because he was so forward,” he spent an afternoon writing with him in a session that produced two songs. “They weren’t the best songs we’ve ever written, but from the start, we could see that we were compatible,” he said. “More importantly, we got on as friends.”

Sambora replaced Jon’s childhood neighbor Dave Sabo, who had decided to go back to college, per The Hollywood Reporter. Sabo went on to co-found Skid Row.

They slept on the floor to make ends meet while recording their second album

Bon Jovi backstage before a performance at the Rosemont Horizon on May 20, 1984.

Paul Natkin/Getty


Despite the success of “Runaway” and Jon’s subsequent record deal, the living situation of Bon Jovi’s early members was quite modest while recording their second album, 7800 Fahrenheit.

“When we were doing the Fahrenheit record, we were all living in the same apartment in Philadelphia, sleeping on the floor when it was 12 below zero outside,” Sambora told The Independent in 1995. “The heating wasn’t working well, and there wasn’t a lot of food in the refrigerator.”

As Sambora explained, their financial situation didn’t stop them from having fun. “That’s the kind of thing that bonds you, high points, low points, everything,” he told the outlet. “That’s what makes a great band.”

Jon and Sambora had successful solo projects while in the band

Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi of Bon Jovi perform during the 33rd Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on April 14, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Kevin Mazur/Getty


Both Jon and Sambora began to pursue solo projects outside of Bon Jovi in the early ‘90s.

In 1990, Jon wrote and performed the soundtrack for Young Guns II starring Emilio Estevez, Christian Slater and Kiefer Sutherland. He recruited the musical talents of Elton John for songs such as “Billy Get Your Guns” and “Dyin’ Ain’t Much of a Living;” Little Richard, who appeared on “You Really Got Me Now;” and Jeff Beck, who served as the guitarist on six of the album’s tracks, including its lead single, “Blaze of Glory,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

One year later, Sambora followed suit with his own solo album, Stranger in This Town, from which his track “Ballad of Youth” spent seven weeks on the charts.

Though Jon also released Destination Anywhere under his name in 1997, he opened up to The Independent in 1995 about wanting to return to his Bon Jovi roots.

“The reason I wanted to get back with the band, even after the success of the Young Guns record, is that I missed the camaraderie,” he said. “I had living legends playing on the Young Guns record, and it would have been an amazing thrill to ask Elton or Jeff to play a couple of shows … But all we’d have had in common was the moment. A band proves itself to you time and time again.”

They won their first Grammy for a country song in 2006

Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland joins Bon Jovi to sing the song “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”.

Rick Diamond/WireImage


Though Bon Jovi had plenty of commercial success in the rock and roll genre, scoring four No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and six No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 as of 2016, it earned its first Grammy Award for 2006’s “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” a country collaboration with Jennifer Nettles.

The song also hit No. 1 on the country charts, marking what NBC reported was the first time a rock crossover had reached that status.

“I knew that the song had great crossover appeal,” Jon told CMT Insider of the track in 2006. “I just feel like a good song is a good song, and it’s a shame that we have such limitations on radio and genres.”

Fourteen years later, the Sugarland frontwoman paired up with the group once more for 2020’s “Do What You Can,” which Jon wrote in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sambora abruptly left the band in 2013 to focus on his family

Richie Sambora, Heather Locklear and daughter Ava Elizabeth.

Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic


After 30 years of performing together as a band, Bon Jovi fractured in 2013 when Sambora was a no-show for the group’s world tour which he never re-joined.

“We were all shocked,” Jon recalled to PEOPLE in 2024. “It was a show that night … and he just didn’t show up. And then the next night, and then the next night … We had 120 people on the road, 80 other shows to do. So the train kept going.”

Sambora previously opened up to PEOPLE about his decision to leave the band in 2020, saying, “It wasn’t a popular decision by any means, obviously, but there was really almost no choice about it. I had a lot of conscious work to do around [my personal life].”

The lead guitarist explained he needed to prioritize his daughter Ava Sambora, whom he shares with ex-wife Heather Locklear. “I realized Ava needed me to be around at that point in time. Family had to come first, and that’s what happened.”

Sambora addressed his sudden departure in the band’s 2024 docuseries, saying, “I don’t regret leaving the situation, but I regret how I did it, so I want to apologize fully right now to the fans, especially, and also to the guys because my feet and my spirit were just not letting me walk out the door.”

Phil X, who had previously filled in for Sambora while he was in rehab, took over for the rest of the Calgary tour and officially joined the band in 2016. Phil really helped us out in a time of need,” Bryan told The Morning Call in 2017. “We didn’t know whether it was going to be one show or 10 shows or … three years.”

He added: “You can’t ever replace anybody because Richie is incredibly talented … but the nice thing about Phil is he adds his own dimension.”

Bon Jovi waited a decade to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Hugh McDonald, Alec John Such, David Bryan, John Bon Jovi, Tico Torres and Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi attend the 33rd Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on April 14, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Theo Wargo/Getty


Bon Jovi first became eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008 but wasn’t inducted until April 14, 2018.

“Good things come to those who wait,” Jon told PEOPLE at the time. “All through those nine years of suffering, it was never pleasant on this day.”

The celebratory occasion marked a reunion for the band, which performed with both current and former members, including Sambora and Such, for the first time since 2001.

“As founding members, they’re entitled, but they were also guys who were there with me when I had this vision,” Jon told PEOPLE, adding, “They deserve it.”

Jon underwent major vocal surgery in 2022

Jon Bon Jovi visits the Empire State Building on Sept. 15, 2023 in New York City.

John Nacion/Getty


After facing vocal cord issues for at least seven years, Jon underwent major vocal surgery in 2022 following a conversation with his wife.

After performing an arena show in Nashville in 2022, which Jon told PEOPLE he thought “went well,” his wife gave him tough love, saying, “It wasn’t great, and I’ve seen you be great.”

Though Jon described the conversation as “heart-breaking,” he knew he needed to seek medical attention or retire.

“If it were going to be over, I just had to wrap my arms around that and say, ‘I’ve had an incredible career. It doesn’t mean I can’t write you a song tomorrow, just means I won’t be doing a hundred-show tour,’ ” he told PEOPLE.

Jon underwent vocal fold medialization surgery in the summer of 2022 to alleviate loose vocal folds. Two years later, Jon told PEOPLE he still works with vocal coaches and does vocal exercises, but remains optimistic.

“I’m capable of singing. What I’m not necessarily capable of is two and a half hours a night, four nights a week,” he said, “but I’m aspiring to get that back.”

Bon Jovi’s founding bassist died in 2022

Alec John Such of the hard rock group Bon Jovi performs onstage in 1984 in Los Angeles.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty


On June 5, 2022, Bon Jovi announced the death of founding bassist Such on X (formerly Twitter). “We are heartbroken to hear the news of the passing of our dear friend Alec John Such,” the group wrote in a statement. “As a founding member of Bon Jovi, Alec was integral to the formation of the band. … He was a childhood friend of Tico and brought Richie to see us perform.”

The group ended its message by describing Such as “always wild and full of life” and that they would “miss him dearly.”

Such left Bon Jovi in 1994. “When I was 43, I started to get burned out,” he once told the Asbury Park Press. “It felt like work and I didn’t want to work. The reason I got into a band to begin with is because I didn’t want to work.”

He was replaced by McDonald — one of the studio musicians who recorded “Runaway” with Jon in the ’80s.

“Livin’ on a Prayer” has more than 1 billion streams on Spotify

Bon Jovi live at the Nakano Sun Plaza in Tokyo on April 20, 1985.

Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty


Arguably Bon Jovi’s most famous song, “Livin’ on a Prayer” was released as the second single on the band’s third album, Slippery When Wet. “If you had to sum up Bon Jovi’s legacy, that song would be probably at the top of the list, and I think because of the optimism,” Torres told The Morning Calls in 2017. He noted: “[It] has transcended time.”

Like the band, the song has undergone several transformations throughout the years. An acoustic version was released on 1994’s Cross Road album under the name “Prayer ‘94,” while the original demo was released as a hidden track on 2004’s 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong.

In 2013, 26 years after initially reaching the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top 100, the song charted once more thanks to a viral video it was featured in per Rolling Stone.

Ten years later, the song reached another milestone when it garnered more than 1 billion streams on Spotify.

The band’s frontman celebrated the achievement in an Instagram video in January 2023, saying, “This is unbelievable, and I’m really grateful for it.”

Jon and Sambora reunited to watch the band’s 2024 docuseries together

Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora and the band Bon Jovi perform at Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wis. on July 5, 2007.

Ray Garbo/Shutterstock


Following Sambora’s 2013 exit from Bon Jovi, Jon lost touch with his former bandmate, but denied any feelings of animosity between them. “We’re not in contact because he’s not in the organization any longer,” he told Ultimate Classic Rock in March 2024. “Doesn’t mean that there’s not love forever.”

The vocalist elaborated on his relationship with Sambora at a screening of Thank You, Goodnight. “There was never a fight,” he clarified. “There was substance abuse, there was anxiety, there was being a single parent, there [were] a lot of personal issues he was going through. But never to this day did any of us, me or him or David or Tico, ever have a fight.”

Jon went on to say that he respected Sambora’s decision to stay home and support his daughter. “It’s unfortunate for us and for the world, but I am not mad about it.”

The pair, who were interviewed for Thank You, Goodnight separately, reunited at Jon’s house to watch the first three episodes side by side. “He came over and watched three parts of the docuseries at my house,” Jon told PEOPLE. “There’s never animosity.”

Bon Jovi is working on their 16th album

Jon Bon Jovi performing in February 2024.

Amy Sussman/Getty 


Bon Jovi will release its 16th studio album, Forever, on June 7, 2024.

“We worked as hard or harder on this album as I did on Slippery When Wet, in fact, harder because we’re not as naïve as we were in 1986,” Jon told PEOPLE in April 2024.

Forever is the band’s first new album in four years and will include several sentimental tracks that pay homage to Jon’s family.

In addition to a song called “Kiss the Bride,” which Jon wrote for daughter Stephanie Rose Bongiovi’s impending wedding day, its lead single, “Legendary,” is a sweet nod to his wife of over three decades, Dorothea Hurley.

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