Jon Bon Jovi Biography

Singer(1962–)
Musician and actor Jon Bon Jovi is best known as the lead singer and founder of the rock band Bon Jovi.

Synopsis

Born John Francis Bongiovi Jr. on March 2, 1962, in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Jon Bon Jovi knew in his early teens that he wanted to be a rock star. He formed the band Bon Jovi in the 1980s, which became popular for its power ballads, soaring guitar riffs, and well-crafted melodies. Jon Bon Jovi has also acted in such films as The Leading Man and was a recurring character on TV's Ally McBeal. Today he continues to perform with his legendary band Bon Jovi. Their recent albums include What About Now (2013) and Burning Bridges (2015).

Early Life

Musician, actor. Born John Francis Bongiovi Jr. on March 2, 1962 in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Jon was raised by his parents, Carol and John Bongiovi, a hairdresser. By his early teens, he was hanging out at local clubs, convinced that one day he would be a rock star.

Idolizing local rising stars such as Bruce Springsteen and the Asbury Jukes, Jon was playing in clubs by the time he was 16. He met keyboardist David Bryan in high school, and the two formed a ten-piece rhythm and blues band called Atlantic City Expressway. Jon also performed with bands called The Rest, The Lechers and John Bongiovi and the Wild Ones.

In 1980, Jon recorded his first single, Runaway, at his cousin's studio, with back-up by studio musicians. A local radio station included the song on a compilation tape, and it began to get frequent airplay. The success of Runaway got Jon noticed, and he realized that he'd need more than session players if he wanted to capitalize on his success.

Jon gave David a call, who in turn tapped Alec John Such, Tico Torres and guitarist Richie Sambora. During a show in New York in 1983, the band caught the attention of record executive Derek Shulman, who signed them to PolyGram. It was Shulman who anglicized John Bongiovi's name to Bon Jovi.

Commercial Success

Their self-titled debut came out on January 21, 1984. Filled with the group's now-signature power ballads underscored by soaring guitar riffs and well-crafted melodies, the album went gold. Bon Jovi released its follow-up album, 7800 Fahrenheit, in April 1985, which was popular with the fans, but less so with the press. Many critics were turned off by the hard-rock band's manicured image and formulaic style.

Tours opening for the Scorpions, Kiss and Judas Priest helped Bon Jovi build up a considerable fan base that appreciated the group's rugged, soulful collection of songs about how tough it was to be a teenager. The band responded to tepid critical praise with its third album, Slippery When Wet, which went gold and platinum simultaneously within six weeks of its release. Powered by songs like Livin' on a Prayer and Wanted Dead or Alive, the album sold in excess of 14 million copies, putting it in the same league as Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Solo Career

The band went into temporary retirement in 1989. Jon concentrated on his solo career, married karate champion Dorothea Hurley and appeared in his first movie, Young Guns II, for which he won he won a Golden Globe for Best Song, Blaze of Glory.

In 1994, the commercial incentive to return to Bon Jovi proved too hard to resist, and the band released another album, Keep The Faith. Jon enjoyed further solo success with 1997's Destination Anywhere. The band regrouped two years later to record the Grammy-nominated album, Crush, and again in 2002 to put out the album, Bounce. Since then, Bon Jovi has released several more records together, including Lost Highway (2007) and What About Now (2013). In 2015, the group debuted Burning Bridges (2015), the first Bon Jovi album released after Richie Sambora left.

Jon Bon Jovi Photo by Michael Zorn/Getty Images

Jon Bon Jovi performs in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in November 2013. (Photo by Michael Zorn/Getty Images)

More than Music

In the '90s, Jon stretched his talents by nurturing an acting career with starring roles in Moonlight and Valentino and The Leading Man. He also appeared in a handful of independent films, including Pay It Forward and U-571. On television, he was a regular guest star on Ally McBeal until the series finale in 2002. Bon Jovi also made headlines in 2004 when he became a co-founder and a majority owner of the Arena Football League's Philadelphia Soul. (He later parted ways with the team.) The following year, he and the band donated $1,000,000 to Oprah Winfrey's Angel Network.

In 2006, Bon Jovi established what is now called the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation. The organization helps fund "innovative community efforts to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness," according to its website.  

Jon married Dorothea Hurley, a karate instructor, in 1989. They have four children, Stephanie, Jesse, Jacob and Romeo Jon.

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