Bon Jovi: From Jersey Boy to Musical Philanthropist

Bon Jovi: From Jersey Boy to Musical Philanthropist

In 1983, Jon Bon Jovi formed Bon Jovi in Sayreville, New Jersey, with friends Tico Torres, on drums; David Bryan, on keyboards; Alec John Such, on bass; and Richie Sambora on guitar and co-songwriting. But this band, who would later become an irrefutable icon of the 80's and beyond, was not Jon's first attempt at assembling his own group.

Jon Bon Jovi, originally born John Francis Bongiovi, started playing and studying music when he was 13. He joined his first band Raze that same year as both pianist and guitarist. Three years later, he met David Bryan, and the two formed a band called Atlantic City Expressway. At the same time, Jon was playing in his band John Bongiovi and the Wild Ones, making appearances in local clubs and opening for local New Jersey acts. In 1980, Jon recorded his first single, what would later become Bon Jovi's massive hit "Runaway," at his cousin Tony Bongiovi's studio; the recording even saw local airplay.

Up until 1983, Jon would continue to accumulate professional music experience through collaborations with his cousin, through the production of demos with artist and producer Billy Squier, and through a job working at Power Station Studios in Manhattan.

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Local hero?

Then, in 1983, Jon visited a local radio station in New York, WAPP "The Apple," and offered to write and sing their station jingles. The station declined but was intrigued by Jon's recording of "Runaway." Reluctant at first, Jon eventually decided to let WAPP add his song to one of their compilation albums that showcased local talent. The song was an immediate hit. Its popularity in the New York area exploded and the New York station's sister stations in other major markets began airing the song, as well.

Realizing his popularity was beginning to lead to opportunity, Jon needed to assemble a band of professional musicians to help him support "Runaway" on tour. He called David Bryan, who called Alec John Such and Tico Torres, who recommended Richie Sambora. By the end of 1983, Bon Jovi, now a band, was playing shows and opening for local acts. By January of 1984, they had released their self-titled, debut LP, Bon Jovi, after catching the attention of record executive Derek Shulman, who signed them to Mercury Records.

There's more to the story.

For most people, the story of the Jon Bon Jovi we know and love begins there and ends with the band's incredible commercial success (They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018). What you may not know, however, is the philanthropic involvement of and the influence of Bruce Springsteen on Bon Jovi.

Before Jon started Bon Jovi and while he was still relatively unknown, Springsteen guested with John Bongiovi and the Wild Ones at The Fast Lane in Asbury Park in 1980. This was the very first time the two would perform together but it would not be the last; the two would be seen on stage together for a total of thirteen times between 1987 and 2012 and would even perform together at Hillary Clinton's Election Eve concert on November 7th, 2016.

You may not be aware of the time when Chris Christie publicly flip-flopped on his long-time favorite and picked Bon Jovi over Springsteen. When asked about this in an interview on "Scott Shannon in the Morning" in 2015, Jon Bon Jovi said that his own band couldn't compete with the E-Street Band and disenthralled himself entirely from the sentiment that music is a competition in the first place. "They're them and we're us and who cares?" he said.

Bon Jovi or Bruce?

"Bon Jovi or Springsteen?" is often a debate among fans of 80's music. And while both sides have their own teams of contenders, their collective impact as artists and as people is even greater. In 2006, Jon Bon Jovi started his own charity called the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation that's still active today. The foundation's mission is to help and feed those who are impoverished and homeless in his home region of Sayreville, New Jersey, but the charity is beginning to expand both internationally and nationally; it's funded housing and provided shelter for thousands of low-income families across Colorado, Detroit, Louisiana, and even South Africa.

The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation has provided housing and meals for thousands of people, especially infants and prior service members coming home without civilian life guarantees. The foundation has served more than 61,000 meals and has established the B.E.A.T. Center in Ocean County, New Jersey, where families and individuals in need of food and job training resources can freely access what they require for empowerment. Jon's charity has partnered with other humanitarian efforts, such as Habitat for Humanity, HELP USA, and KaBOOM! to continuously solve housing and hunger problems in select areas.

Alongside his Soul Foundation, Bon Jovi previously started another charity called the Bon Jovi Family Foundation that provided direct funding to other charities and places in need, like ACE New York, an organization that works with homeless men and women across New York City. However, the Bon Jovi Family Foundation has since been liquidated of its assets, so its future remains uncertain. But Bon Jovi himself remains in his 50s, so much can be expected in the way of his charitable giving in the years to come.

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