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Thursday August 8, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday August 8, 2013 MYT 10:07:44 AM
by brian mccollum
Positive outlook: Jon Bon Jovi attributes his optimistic attitude in life to his positive upbringing.
Jon Bon Jovi looks back at 30 years of thinking positive.
Scroll back through Bon Jovi’s three-decade legacy of songs, and it’s not hard to spot the common thread.
Indeed, Jon Bon Jovi himself will tell you without missing a beat: “Optimism.”
Those yearning, uplifting rock anthems have seemed to instinctively pour out of Bon Jovi through the years – from the debut hit Runaway in 1984, through the bazillion-selling Livin’ On A Prayer in 1987, right up to this year’s Because We Can, lead track from the new 12th album, What About Now.
“This is who I am and what I do,” says Jon Bon Jovi. “Part of which is to be an optimist. So, the thematic hue that I choose tends to lean towards optimism. It may be based in realism – case in point, (the new songs) What’s Left Of Me or What About Now. But there’s always going to be an underlying optimism.”
It’s a trait the 51-year-old songwriter and front man attributes to a distinct set of circumstances: his upbringing in blue-collar New Jersey of the 1960s.
“I was born in an era when that was just instilled in you,” he says. “I was born in the Kennedy era to two working-class parents who believed in Camelot. And that’s a blessing. ... Being born in 1962, being told that we’re going to go to the moon, my parents just looked at me and said, ‘You can go to the moon.’ And I believed it.”
In some sense, Bon Jovi got there: Having skyrocketed to global fame in the late ‘80s – the biggest of the era’s pop-metal bands – the quartet has continued to thrive on the radio, record charts and box offices, regularly landing among the world’s top-grossing live acts.
And this isn’t just some weathered rock outfit dusting off old relics: The success of What About Now, Bon Jovi’s fifth No 1 album and third in a row, shows a band that’s still radiating relevance – even if the hits these days are more likely to be nurtured via adult pop radio than the hard-rock airwaves.
At 51, Jon Bon Jovi is still one of the friendliest fellows you’ll encounter in the world of big-time rock. He’s chatty and candid as he describes the humility he feels about his massive career success – “not so much satisfaction as gratitude.” His philanthropic efforts through the years have been well-chronicled, including a recent US$1mil (RM3.2mil) donation to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund in his weather-battered home state.
He maintains the upbeat tone even when confronted with an ostensibly sensitive subject: the ongoing AWOL status of founding guitarist Richie Sambora, who cited only a “personal matter” when he stepped away from the band in April. Sambora’s spot is being filled by tour guitarist Phil X – who pulled similar duty during a Sambora absence in 2011.
“I love the man to death,” Bon Jovi says of his longtime songwriting partner. “He’s always going to be the guitar player in the band. He’s not been fired. There’s been no fight. There’s been none of that initial TMZ story about money or anything. He’s going through – all I can tell you – personal issues. And as soon as he works them out, he’s got a seat on the plane next to me.”
Bon Jovi uses the opportunity to deliver a personal message to Sambora: “The door’s open. You’re welcome back. We love you.”
The band is gearing up for an autumn stretch of North American dates. For all the thrill of playing live, says Bon Jovi, touring nowadays takes its physical toll, and he keeps a strict health and gym regimen out on the road.
Relying on doctors and trainers to “put me back together again all the time,” he’s taken to calling himself “Humpty Dumpty.”
“I don’t know how (Mick) Jagger does it at 70,” he says.
Does Jon Bon Jovi see himself as that septuagenarian rocker someday? Probably not. But he’ll use the Rolling Stones as a benchmark.
“They are the bar,” he says, chuckling. “I’ve always half-jokingly said that. First and foremost, I hold them in such high esteem. The day that they finally say, ‘We’re done,’ I at least get to write down the date and the day and how old they were and what they accomplished. So that’s the bar, and then I’ll determine how close we’ll get to it.”
For now, he remains focused on a music career – and craft – that’s still mighty fruitful. And he’ll keep writing the sorts of transcendence-seeking songs that come with being Jon Bon Jovi.
“Every one of them comes from a pure place, or else I couldn’t sing them,” he says. “And even if I were to have fallen victim and said at some point during my career, ‘OK, fall down on the sword because this one could be a quote-unquote hit song’ – if there’s one lesson I’ve learned in my life, it’s – don’t do that.”
“Because, the worst fear is that you’ve got to sing that song for the next 30 years.” – Detroit Free Press/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
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