It’s Their Life! Reliving the Glory Days of Bon Jovi

One of the most successful bands in rock music, Bon Jovi has found major success for over thirty years and several lineup changes. The group got started in the early ’80s and has continued to sell out arenas all over the world.

Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora / David Bryan, Alec John Such, Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Tico Torres / Bon Jovi Band Members / Jon Bon Jovi
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Most of the glam rock bands from the ’70s and ’80s faded away, but Bon Jovi figured out a way to retain the spark that allowed them to stay relevant in the music business. Whether it’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” or “It’s My Life,” when a Bon Jovi song comes on, you’ll find yourself screaming and headbanging along!

A Discography Filled With Hits

With a career spanning more than three decades, it would make sense that a band of this caliber would have a stocked musical library. The most impressive part is that the records they released are pretty evenly spread out over the three decades they’ve been performing together. As of 2021, Bon Jovi has released 16 albums, five compilation records, and three live albums.

Jon Bon Jovi performs at the Staples Center.
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When it comes to subsequent media, the group has released 14 video albums and 58 music videos so far. With this much quality material, it doesn’t take a genius to understand how they made the best-selling artists list.

Consistency Is Key

One reason that so many rock bands break up has to do with frequent lineup changes. The genre is plagued with excess drug and alcohol use, so that typically has something to do with it. But that was not an issue for Bon Jovi.

David Bryan, Tico Torres, Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Alec John Such pose backstage.
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The band has more or less stayed the same for the past 30+ years with the unofficial stint of guitarist Dave Sabo in 1983, bass player Alec John Such in 1994, and one of the founding members Richie Sambora in 2013. The consistency has contributed to the band’s longevity and staying power in the world of hard rock music.

The Pride and Joy of Jersey

Formed in Sayreville, New Jersey, the band Bon Jovi is one of the biggest prides of the state. All the members of the original lineup were Jersey natives and managed to not be considered sellouts with the locals.

John Bongiovi Jr. poses for his high school portrait.
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John Bongiovi Jr., whom we now know as Jon Bon Jovi, and David Bryan were known for playing in local Jersey bands in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. At the same time, John began working in his cousin’s studio and used his connections to record the single, “Runaway.” The single got airtime on a number of local Jersey radio stations.

Putting the Band Together

A year or two later, Jon brought the single to a New York radio station and re-recorded it with a collection of local musicians. That re-recording not only got played on local New York stations but started gaining some serious traction on bigger stations. This prompted John to connect with keyboardist David Bryan, drummer Tico Torres, and bassist Alec John Such.

avid Bryan poses for a portrait.
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Bryan had been in a previous band with John, studied at Julliard, and then left music school when John told him about the possible record deal. In 1983, John decided to take this group on a small tour to promote “Runaways.”

Assembling and Finalizing the Lineup

For the tour, John asked his friend Dave Sabo to help them as a guitarist. Interestingly enough, Sabo was never officially a member of Bon Jovi but would become a founder of the band Skid Row.

Jon Bon Jovi And Richie Sambora outside the recording studio.
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With the lead guitarist position now available, John quickly recruited Richie Sambora at the urging of a few of the other band members. With the band’s lineup finalized, there were only a few minor details that they needed to attend to: getting a band name and a recording contract.

Name Changes and Recording Contracts

In a pretty mild attempt to make his name sound more American, John decided to change his name in professional settings to Jon Bon Jovi. The change seemed to mirror John Cougar’s name change and highlighted Jon’s dedication to do whatever it took to remain accessible to fans.

Bon Jovi band members pose together backstage.
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Then came the matter of a recording contract. By the end of 1983, the group was playing smaller shows and began as opening acts for local musicians when word got back to executive Derek Shulman at Mercury Records.

Formerly Known as Johnny Electric

Up until that point, the band had been billed as Johnny Electric when it would perform as the opening act, but friends of the band urged them to go in a different direction. They suggested that the band follow the trend of Van Halen and name themselves Bon Jovi.

The Bon Jovi band members are being interviewed.
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Truth be told, the band was not crazy about the name but eventually agreed that it was their best option. With a new name and a new contract, Bon Jovi released their first album in 1984.

Respectable Chart Performance and Touring

Appropriately named after themselves, the band’s debut album featured the band’s song “Runaway.” The single reached the top 40 on the Billboard music charts and got them opening slots on tour with bands like KISS and Scorpion that same year.

Ritchie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi perform on stage.
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For a first album, Bon Jovi was excited about their chart performance and was going into their next recording sessions in high spirits. The fan reception and chart performance weren’t nearly as high as they had hoped for their second album, 7800° Fahrenheit, in 1985.

Rock to Melt Your Face Off

The title inspiration for 7800° Fahrenheit came from the actual temperature it takes for rocks to melt. Get it? Because it’s a rock band, and they want to melt fans’ faces off with how good their music was!

Jon Bon Jovi performs on stage.
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Whether or not the joke was understood by audiences, the album itself did present the band an excuse to get out and tour their music around Asia, Europe, and the States. Since their second album didn’t perform as strongly as they wanted, Bon Jovi tried a different strategy for their follow-up record.

Third Time’s the Charm

The band chose to pull a complete 180 and collaborate with professional songwriter Desmond Child. The band relocated to Vancouver, Canada, to write and record their third studio album. While in Canada, the band went to a Vancouver strip club which served as inspiration for the album’s title.

The members of Bon Jovi pose for a studio photo session.
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As the saying goes, the third time’s the charm because this record was what catapulted the rock band into hair-metal history. Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet was released in mid-August 1986. The timing of the album release couldn’t have been better for the band.

The Rise of Hair-Metal Music

The genre of hair metal was gaining traction on MTV thanks to bands like Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, and Ratt. Put a rock-metal album together with a photogenic, fluffy-haired frontman like Jon Bon Jovi, and you’re only left with success.

David Bryan, Alec John Such, Jon Bon Jovi, Tico Torres, and Richie Sambora pose backstage.
Photo by Mark Weiss/Getty Images

The album surpassed the band’s expectations when it went multiplatinum and spent eight weeks at the top of the Billboard charts. Bon Jovi took MTV and the international rock world by storm. The image of the band combined with the catchy songs only worked in their favor.

Bringing Home the Hardware

With powerhouse songs like “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and “You Give Love a Bad Name,” the boys took home several awards, including the American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Group.

Bon Jovi live at Nakano Sun Plaza
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Specifically, these songs had such lasting power that in 2009 “You Give Love a Bad Name” was named the 20th Greatest Hard Rock Song of All Time by VH1. After bringing home the hardware, the boys set off to headline 130 shows and made over $28 million from the Tour Without End.

Determined to Stay at the Top

Bon Jovi returned to the United States, riding the high of international fame. They were determined to continue the pattern of success and not let Slippery When Wet be their only taste of fame.

The rock group Bon Jovi during a record-release party to celebrate their new album.
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Without a solid break from their last album and subsequent tour, the band got right back in the recording studio to make their fourth album. New Jersey, an homage to the band’s roots, was released in September 1988. And all their sleepless nights and long days were well worth it!

Breaking Records With No. 1 Singles

The New Jersey album reached the top spot on the music charts in the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, and Australia. The leading singles from the album, “Lay Your Hands On Me” and “Bad Medicine,” also made it to No. 1 on the Billboard charts.

Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora are in the recording studio.
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Five total singles from the New Jersey album ranked in the Top 10 on the Billboard charts. This number of singles from a single hard rock album ranking in the Top 10 broke the previously held record.

Pushing the Limits of Sexy

One of those record-breaking singles, “Living in Sin,” caused even more of a stir. Sex, drugs, rock, and roll is how the saying goes, and this song aggressively alluded to the first one. So much so that MTV actually banned the “Living in Sin” music video for explicit sexual content.

Jon Bon Jovi performs onstage during a festival.
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But what have we learned about musicians and bands that get in trouble for being too sexual? It only puts their name in the headlines and helps their albums sales, which is exactly what happened to Bon Jovi.

A Powerful Power Ballad

The band decided to re-edit it to take advantage of the publicity MTV’s platform would bring them. Once they re-edited it, the video was played in heavy rotation. Another track off the 1988 album was “I’ll Be There for You.”

Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi perform on stage.
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The power ballad debuted at the No. 1 spot and became one of the band’s biggest songs to date. After working with a professional songwriter on Slippery When Wet, it was validating to score a No. 1 hit with a Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora written tune.

Comparisons Between Acclaimed Albums

The year 1988 was almost as successful for Bon Jovi as 1987 was. Many fans agree that although they like the big songs on the New Jersey album, when they were compared to the leading singles from Slippery When Wet, it was obvious which album was stronger.

David Bryan, Alec John Such, Jon Bon Jovi, Tico Torres, and Richie Sambora walk to the stage.
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Still, the band reached their goal and showed that their mega-success in 1986 was not a fluke but the beginning of a pattern. After the re-editing music video fiasco was figured out, Bon Jovi left to go on an enormous international tour.

A Gruelingly Long Tour

If you thought that their tour promoting Slippery When Wet was long, that was nothing in comparison to their tour following the release of their fourth album. The tour started after the 1988 album release and went well into 1990, totaling about 16 months.

Jon Bon Jovi looks out the window of a helicopter.
Photo by Mark Weiss/Getty Images

They traveled to over twenty countries for over 232 performances. This tour even brought the band back to the album’s namesake, New Jersey’s Giant Stadium. The band’s fame reached as far as the Soviet Union, where they actually headlined a music festival.

Seal of Approval From the Soviet Union

Their New Jersey album was the first record from the United States that was legally released in the Soviet Union. Plus, their performance in the U.S.S.R. marked the first band who got official authorization to perform from the Soviet government.

Richie Sambora, David Bryan, Jon Bon Jovi, Tico Torres, Alec John Such at the Red Square in Moscow.
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By the end of their New Jersey tour, the band was beyond exhausted. They had just recorded back-to-back albums and gone on lengthy back-to-back tours. Everyone agreed that they needed a bit of a breather, so the band took a much-needed hiatus when they got home.

Jon’s Solo “Blaze of Glory”

Many of the Bon Jovi members treated this sabbatical, which would only last until late 1991, as a time to explore solo projects and reevaluate what they wanted from the band. Jon seemed to have the most commercially successful break with the solo album Blaze of Glory.

Jon Bon Jovi performs on stage.
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The record was the movie soundtrack for 1990’s Young Guns II, starring Emilio Estevez. The leading single, “Blaze of Glory,” took home an American Music Award and even won a Golden Globe. Jon also got Grammy and Academy Award nominations for the song.

Stranger in This Town

But Jon wasn’t the only one to strike out on his own during the band’s break. Lead guitarist Richie Sambora also released a solo album in 1991, Stranger in This Town. His bandmates David Bryan and Tico Torres helped him out by backing him up during the recording sessions.

Richie Sambora rocks out on stage.
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The esteemed Eric Clapton also appeared on the album, as a special guest on the song “Mr. Bluesman.” Sambora’s album peaked at #36 on the Billboard charts and included a song that was cut from Bon Jovi’s New Jersey record, “Rosie.”

Other Endeavors During Their Time Off

The other Bon Jovi members had less than perfect breaks from the band. David Bryan didn’t go the solo album route but did offer his talents to help his friend Richie Sambora with his solo project.

Alec Jon Such, Tico Torres, Richie Sambora, Jon Bon Jovi, and David Bryan pose in an alleyway.
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He did help make a soundtrack for the 1992 horror movie The Netherworld, but this was after recovering from a parasite when he traveled to South America. Alec John Such had an even tougher time after sustaining an injury to his hand that forced him to relearn how to play his bass.

Becoming His Own Boss

After growing his self-confidence and knowledge in the music business through his solo project, Jon Bon Jovi decided to take matters into his own hands. In 1991, Jon consolidated the people around him and took over as his own manager, agent, and business adviser.

Bon Jovi at the MTV Video Music Awards.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

He developed the Bon Jovi Management and officially took autonomous ownership over himself and the band, technically making his teammates his employees. That same year, the band unofficially reunited to discuss plans moving forward. Issues were identified and properly dealt with.

The 1992 Comeback Album

With the issues out in the open and conflict resolution put in place, the boys returned to Vancouver to begin recording their fifth studio album. In November 1992, Keep the Faith was released and marked a shift in the band. The music sounded much more mature and sans the crazy guitar solos.

David Bryan, Alec John Such, Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Tico Torres pose together.
Photo by Mark Weiss/Getty Images

It seemed that they wanted to make a clear distinction between their ‘80s material and their new music. But the music wasn’t the only difference that Bon Jovi made before their ‘90s comeback.

Making Headlines for Haircuts

The boys had agreed that a new, refined sound deserved a new look to complete the package. They figured that a sleeker visual might help their fans to understand that the band was moving forward with a new chapter.

Bon Jovi members pose with their new haircuts.
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Gone were the all-leather outfits and teased hair, and in their place stood serious musicians with considerably shorter haircuts. In fact, when the album came out, and news of Jon Bon Jovi’s haircut broke, it was all anyone could talk about, including news stations like CNN!

An Evening With Bon Jovi

To further prove that Bon Jovi was taking itself more seriously, the band performed both their old and new music on MTV’s Unplugged. The taping of this concert experience was done before Keep the Faith was actually released.

Jon Bon Jovi performs with his acoustic guitar.
Source: YouTube

Still, Keep the Faith: An Evening with Bon Jovi was in theaters for a limited time after the album came out. Though the album wasn’t as commercially successful as its two predecessors, several singles off the record charted in the Top 10, “Bed of Roses” and “Keep the Faith.”

A Sleeper Fan Favorite

“Bed of Roses” was a power ballad that helped provide an element of continuity for the band’s sound and “Keep the Faith” peaked at No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock Charts. For die-hard Bon Jovi fans, one of the most beloved songs of the band’s fifth studio album was actually “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.”

David Bryan plays the piano as he poses during the 'Bed of Roses' video shoot.
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The song didn’t perform as well on the charts as some of the other singles from the album, but it would go on to make the band’s Greatest Hits album.

Release of a Greatest Hits Album

The tour for this album was significantly smaller in the number of shows but higher when it came to the number of countries. They made it to 37 countries to play for upwards of 2.5 million fans. The band returned to the studio to release their first greatest hits record, Cross Road.

Richie Sambora, Jon Bon Jovi, and Alec John Such perform on stage.
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It included all the fan favorites and included two new songs, “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” and “Always.” The latter became the band’s bestselling single and remained in the Top 10 on the Billboard charts for half a year.

The First Lineup Change

The same year that Bon Jovi released their first greatest hits album, they also had their first lineup change. Interviews with band members have said that bassist Alec John Such was dismissed for lagging behind, while others claimed he had wanted to leave for a while.

Alec John Such performs on stage.
Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Whether he was fired for poor performances or left of his own choice is still a bit murky. But what we do know for certain about Such is that 1994 was his last year as an official part of Bon Jovi.

Mediocre Chart Performance

After Such’s departure, Hugh McDonald joined Bon Jovi as their new bassist (though he wasn’t so new since he had been the bassist for the recording of “Runaway”). He was roaring and ready to go just in time for the band’s 1995 European tour.

Richie Sambora, Jon Bon Jovi, and Hugh McDonald perform on stage.
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While they were still on tour, the band’s sixth album, These Days, was released. For the first time in nearly a decade, Bon Jovi was only able to have one song off the album find success in the United States, “This Ain’t a Love Song.”

Conscious Break, Take Two

The These Days Tour lasted 126 shows, three of which were sold-out performances at the iconic Wembley Stadium in London, England. After the band returned from the tour, they decided to go their separate ways.

Bon Jovi performs in front of thousands of fans at Wembley Stadium.
Source: Twitter

But unlike their separation after returning from the New Jersey tour, everyone was on the same page about this break. They agreed to consciously take two years to work on other projects before they would come back to work on another album. To their credit, they more or less stuck to their timeline!

From Lead Singer to Leading Man

What’s any musician to do when he’s had a successful solo album and now has a couple of years to kill before reuniting with his band? Switch over to acting, of course! Jon Bon Jovi took the band’s second sabbatical to pursue quite a number of film roles, sometimes more than one in a single year.

Jon Bon Jovi, as The Painter, in Moonlight and Valentino.
Source: Gramercy Pictures

In the first year of becoming an actor, Jon was in 1995’s Moonlight and Valentino and 1996’s The Leading Man. After showing his acting chops, 1997 brought Jon more leading roles.

Artistic Expression During the Break

1997 was also the year that he released his second solo album, Destination Anywhere, and a subsequent film that Jon also starred in. The album had mixed reviews from critics, with Jon showing a different, more soulful side to himself musically. Jon also continued to act in between future albums.

Jon Bon Jovi is filming Destination Anywhere.
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During the same hiatus, Torres and Bryan decided to pursue artistic expressions, including painting and composing musicals. The only other bandmate who also released any new music was Richie Sambora, who released his sophomore solo album, Undiscovered Soul, in 1998.

The Comeback Kids

We have to give credit where credit is due because Bon Jovi sure knows how to make a comeback! Many had counted the band down and out after what some considered underwhelming fifth and sixth studio albums. But Bon Jovi was very much still in it with 2000’s Crush, their seventh album.

Bon Jovi take a bow at the end of their concert.
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With any comeback album, there needs to be the show-stopping hit song, and the band delivered that with “It’s My Life.” The single was one of the band’s highest-selling releases in ten years.

Symbol of Longevity and Welcoming New Fans

“It’s My Life” became a symbol and proof that they had the skills to navigate through rock’s many changes over the years. The single brought Bon Jovi into the 21st century and, with it, a broader and younger audience.

Bon Jovi band members accept an award at the inaugural 'My VH1 Music Awards'.
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Younger fans seemed just as dedicated as the ones from the ‘80s as “It’s My Life” went on to win the My VH1 Music Award for Best Music Video. The group’s 7th outing also earned them two Grammy Nominations and the last ever show at Wembley Stadium.

The Influence of 9/11

After Bon Jovi returned from their Crush World Tour in 2001, they fully expected to take a short break before returning to a recording studio. They, and the rest of the world, could never have expected the events of September 11th to unfold.

The band
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Emotionally influenced by the tragic events of that day, the band put themes of unity and strength into the lyrics of their 8th album. Though met with mixed reviews from critics, Bounce was Bon Jovi’s highest album debut at No. 2 on the Billboard charts.

Have a Nice Day

After the emotionally charged Bounce record, Bon Jovi returned to the studio and released 2005’s Have a Nice Day. The two biggest songs were the title track and “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.” The latter was re-recorded as a duet with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles.

Jennifer Nettles joins Bon Jovi to sing
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The duet peaked at the top spot on the Billboard Country charts. Bon Jovi became the first rock group to have a top single on a country chart. The duet with Nettles would also earn them their only Grammy award.

Lost Highway’s Strong Country Influences

Following the hugely successful Have a Nice Day Tour, Bon Jovi released their tenth album, 2007’s Lost Highway. Inspired by their award-winning rock-country collaboration, the band infused a lot of country music influences into their songs. Because of the dramatic shift, the group did more promotional performances than usual.

Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora perform onstage.
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The band members considered it a combination of a traditional Bon Jovi sound with some strong Nashville spice. The subsequent tour was the most successful tour in 2008 and made $227 million solely off ticket sales.

The Failed Marriage of Richie Sambora

Though the band was having successes, Richie Sambora was having troubles in his personal life when he and his then-wife Heather Locklear announced that they were getting a divorce. Sambora and Locklear had gotten married in 1994 and welcomed a daughter together, Ava.

Heather Locklear and Richie Sambora watch their daughter Ava Sambora walk the runway
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The announcement came in 2006 though the divorce was only finalized in 2007 when Bon Jovi was on their tour to promote their Lost Highway tour. After the divorce, Sambora focused on the tour while Locklear had various arrests and concerns surrounding her mental health.

Documentary Release and Songwriter Honors

It seems like any uber-successful celebrity has a documentary about them. Bon Jovi was no different with the release of Phil Griffin’s When We Were Beautiful in 2009. The film followed the band on the 2007 tour and included interviews with band members.

Bon Jovi band members sit backstage.
Source: YouTube

It gave a voice to musicians who are typically only seen for the instrument they play. As if having a movie made about you wasn’t enough, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora were both inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame that same year.

Circling the Top Spot

2009 was a huge year for Bon Jovi because they also released an album! The Circle was released in November of that year and saw the band return to hard rock after a country-inspired venture. The album debuted at No. 1 in the United States, and in early 2010, the group headed out for the tour.

Bon Jovi band members perform on the roof of the O2 Arena.
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The Circle Tour proved to be one of the most successful of the year and the group was considered the Top Touring Act of 2010 by Billboard.

Richie Sambora Leaves the Band

After Bon Jovi released What About Now in 2013, Richie Sambora announced that he was leaving the group. After 30 years, he decided to part ways and focus on his daughter, whom he shares with his ex-wife, Heather Locklear.

Heather Locklear, Richie Sambora and daughter Ava Elizabeth.
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Sambora has dealt with painkiller addiction and alcoholism. This included two stints in rehab, one during a Bon Jovi tour. Rumors claimed a fight between Jon and Sambora was the reason for the guitarist’s departure, though Jon was quick to dispel that and said that a reunion was definitely a possibility.

Back-to-Back Albums

Phil X, who played with the band during recording sessions, stepped up to fill the vacancy. He began playing with the band promptly after Sambora’s departure. Burning Bridges, the band’s 13th album, included several archived songs that hadn’t been released.

Hugh McDonald, Phil X, and Jon Bon Jovi perform on stage.
Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

This was the group’s first album released without Sambora on it. With a quick turnaround, Bon Jovi released the This House Is Not for Sale album in 2016. This record served as the unofficial marker of making Phil X and Hugh McDonald official members of the band.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

With the longevity and success that Bon Jovi had during their career, it was only a matter of time before they got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In December 2017, the official announcement was released that the band was being inducted after winning the fan ballot with over 1 million votes.

Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi perform at their Induction Ceremony.
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Jon Bon Jovi extended the invitation to Alec John Such and Richie Sambora to join their former bandmates for the show. The two happily accepted and were part of the April 2018 performance.

Bon Jovi’s Latest Album

In early 2019, Jon Bon Jovi took to social media to share with fans that Bon Jovi was back in the studio making their 15th studio album. But just because they’re mega rockstars doesn’t mean that they get a pass when it comes to pandemics.

A close-up photo of Jon Bon Jovi.
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The album, 2020, was supposed to be released in May 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the album’s release and its accompanying tour. That delay turned into entirely canceling the tour, and the album was released in October of last year.

Cher’s Connection to Bon Jovi

Back in 1987, after taking a break from music to pursue a film career, pop legend Cher returned to music with her comeback self-titled album. Bon Jovi members Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora were two of the producers and songwriters for the album.

Richie Sambora and Cher during 1989 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, California, United States.
Richie Sambora and Cher during 1989 MTV Video Music Awards. Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

In 1989, Cher and Sambora attended the Video Music Awards together in their public debut as a couple. While they were dating, the couple was very private about their relationship. It only lasted a year though, as they broke it off in 1990.

Jon Bon Jovi Married His High School Sweetheart

Jon Bon Jovi broke many young hearts when he married his high school sweetheart Dorothea during the band’s New Jersey Tour in 1989. The pair had been together since meeting in class at their New Jersey high school.

Jon Bon Jovi sits with his wife, Dorothea Hurley, at a fashion show.

For a rockstar, Jon’s love life has been smooth sailing and overwhelmingly undramatic with little to no drama when it came to his marriage. He and Dorothea have had a strong partnership as they balanced his touring schedules, their relationship, and raising their four children: Stephanie (28), Jesse (26), Jacob (19), and Romeo (17).