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Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi may be the second most famous act to emerge from - and be identified with - New Jersey in the rock era, but the band has likely accumulated more platinum than even Bruce Springsteen. Combining good looks, songwriting craft and a workingman's image, Bon Jovi polished the edges of its metal foundation to become a band whose appeal ranged from the classic-rock crowd through teenagers.

Often, talent isn't enough to secure a Big Break in the music business. Less often, even good looks and talent aren't enough. John Bongiovi, though, had both those qualities, and something else: cousin Tony owned a prestigious New York City recording studio. And so it was that John hung out at the Power Station, was put to work as a $50-week janitor, and eventually landed some studio time for himself. One of the recordings he made there, Runaway, appeared on a radio station album promoting unsigned bands, and gathered enough local airplay that Jon formed a band to play gigs in support of the record.

The first edition of Bon Jovi included Jon, Juilliard-trained keyboardist David Rashbaum, guitarist Dave Sabo, bassist Alex John Such, and drummer Tico Torres. Upon signing with Mercury Records in 1983, Sabo left - to be replaced by Richie Sambora - and Jon and David both changed their names: John to "Jon Bon Jovi," and Rashbaum to "David Bryan."

Runaway became a hit single from the band's 1984 debut album (Bon Jovi). The subsequent album, 7800° Fahrenheit, fared even better, but it was their third album, Slippery When Wet, that marked the group's commercial breakthrough, thanks in part to the work of producer Bruce Fairburn, engineer Bob Rock, and songwriter Desmond Child. Among the hit singles from the album were Livin' on a Prayer, You Give Love a Bad Name, and Wanted Dead or Alive. When Slippery When Wet was released, Bon Jovi was touring as the support act for .38 special. By the end of the year, Bon Jovi had been headlining arenas for several months. A worldwide hit, Slippery When Wet has sold well over twelve million copies in the United States, alone.

The follow-up, New Jersey, included the No. 1 singles I'll Be There for You and Bad Medicine, and has sold upwards of seven million copies, domestically. The band worked with Sambora's then-fiancée, Cher, on her double-platinum Heart of Stone, then disbanded for two years - during the course of which, Sambora released his first solo album, Stranger in This Town. Jon Bon Jovi wrote songs for the film Young Guns II, which were released on his solo album, Blaze of Glory. The title song, a No. 1 hit, won a Golden Globe and was nominated for Grammy and Academy Awards.

Jon also began his sideline career, as an actor. Beginning with an unbilled bit part in Young Guns II, he continued to amass credits in films including Moonlight and Valentino, U-571, Pay It Forward, John Carpenter's Vampires, Cry Wolf, and National Lampoon's The Trouble with Frank. Jon's most notable television acting credit was a 2002 arc in which he played one of Ally McBeal's boyfriends.

Regrouping in 1992 and now managing themselves, the band released the double-platinum Keep the Faith album, followed by a hits collection. Such departed in 1994, and to date has not been replaced by an official bassist. After 1995's These Days album, the group again disbanded, this time for two years. During the break, Jon and Richie released second solo albums (Destination Anywhere and Undiscovered Soul, respectively); Dave released his first solo album, Under a Full Moon, and worked on soundtrack and musical theater projects; and Tico exercised his talents as a painter and sculptor.

You can take Bon Jovi out of the band, but you can't take the band out of Bon Jovi. Having reunited (save for the temporarily-injured Dave), the group recorded the song Real Life for the film EdTV. In about a year's time, the quartet again entered the studio, a bushel of songs in hand, to record the album Crush. Including the singles It's My Life, Say It Isn't So and Thank You for Loving Me, Crush received Grammy nominations for Best Rock Album and (for It's My Life), Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group. An international arena tour followed, plus the band's first-ever live album, One Wild Night: Live 1985-2001.

Following the catastrophe of September 11, 2001, Bon Jovi participated in the A Tribute to Heroes and Concert For New York shows, as well as two concerts for the Monmouth County Alliance of Neighbors, to benefit families distressed by the World Trade Center disaster.

The events of September 11 were in Bon Jovi's minds during the writing and recording of their eighth studio album, Bounce. At No. 2, the album marked Bon Jovi's highest-ever debut on Billboard's album chart. A world tour followed, including a performance before 92,000 fans in London's Hyde Park, and two sold-out nights in New Jersey's Giants Stadium.

The band released This Left Feels Right, an album including new, often quite different, arrangements of their greatest hits in November 2003. A year later, the band's first boxed set, 100,000,000 Million Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong was released. Instead of hits and fan favorite album cuts, the album consisted for the most part of unreleased or limited-release material from throughout the band's career.

In 2004, the band also received the American Music Awards' Lifetime Merit Award.

© 2004