Jon Bon Jovi Is Rock's Mr. Nice Guy-12.2005
"Have a Nice Day," Bon Jovi's ninth studio album, debuted in Billboard at No. 2 in late September, the band's best first-week sales (202,000) in 15 years. And for the first time, Bon Jovi has a hit on Billboard's country chart with "Who Says You Can't Go Home," a collaboration with Jennifer Nettles of country combo Sugarland; the bands appeared together on CMT's "Crossroads," a show mixing country and rock.
"How about that?" Bon Jovi asks, adding he is "pleased, but not necessarily surprised. The young guys in country now, I think, have more in common with Bon Jovi records of the late '80s and early '90s than they do with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and the originators of the art form. Joe Nichols mentions us in his current hit single ["Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off"], and Chris Cagle just covered 'Wanted Dead or Alive' on his new album," ["Anywhere but Here"].
According to Bon Jovi, who supported the last two Democratic presidential candidates (even performing at rallies for Al Gore), the title song on "Have a Nice Day" was inspired by recent events in American politics -- the tune is more ironic than blissful. But, he adds, "if there was nothing else I learned from two campaigns where I was on the other side, it was don't be a sore loser. From November 3rd onwards, forget about red and blue states; like it or not, we're all going to have to be purple and you've got to learn to get along. . . . What makes the world go 'round is you have your opinion, I have mine -- have a nice day."
Which could be a campaign slogan, though Bon Jovi sloughs off talk about getting too involved with politics "because 50 percent of the people hate you before you leave your house! I was once with President Clinton, and someone asked whose job was better, and I said mine because I get to keep the house and the plane! What I've realized is that being a philanthropist is a lot more rewarding, and this way I don't have to lobby people and ask them to do things. I can see a medical clinic that needs building and build it; a food bank needs a truck, you buy it. I don't think I have the skin for politics."
The last time Bon Jovi was in Washington was in August, when he addressed 2,500 people at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service at the Convention Center. Conceding that being a rock star had its perks, Bon Jovi told the crowd he "got more of a rush when I went to the Northern Home for Children in North Philly and said, 'Why don't you have a great playground? I'll build you a playground.' And we built a playground. When you do that and you get people to volunteer their time, their money, their resources -- it builds. I then put that playground on MTV's 'Real World,' . . . and they, in turn, had people calling and wanting to help and donate money and donate goods. . . . You can start a revolution one soul at a time in your community."
As majority owner of the Philadelphia Soul, an Arena Football League team, Bon Jovi has channeled more than $400,000 into the community. In October he teamed with Habitat for Humanity International to build two duplexes in a North Philadelphia neighborhood, raising $400,000 in corporate donations and throwing in $50,000 of his own money. The site also served as location for the band's video for "Who Says You Can't Go Home."
"I get to play Robin Hood," Bon Jovi says, "and I'm not shy about getting money from a corporation and saying thank you and handing the check over or using my own money because there are so many people in our own back yard that don't have roofs over their head, a square meal in their belly and their kids are cold or hungry. I made a point of bringing that up when we did Live 8 in Philly. . . . It's wonderful to think globally and to act locally -- and there's no reason why you can't do both."
Thinking globally also benefited Bon Jovi's career. Though many '80s rock bands were hair today and gone tomorrow, Bon Jovi has proved a remarkably durable export. Of those 100 million records sold, 68 million were overseas. And of 32 million tickets sold at more than 2,500 concerts, a great many were in stadiums and arenas in the 50 countries Bon Jovi has toured in since 1984; in 2000, the group was the last band to play London's fabled Wembley Stadium before it was torn down, and Bon Jovi will be the first to play the new Wembley when it opens in June. Another million tickets will be sold on the current tour, which will include European soccer stadiums in the spring.
"Thank God for our former manager [Doc McGhee]," Bon Jovi says. "He said, 'We're going everywhere,' and we were eager because we were young kids at the time and hadn't been anywhere and never dreamt of going anywhere. . . . I remember specifics about very big bands in America that couldn't play a bar outside of the country, so when America does turn its back on you -- and radio is fickle -- they have nowhere else to go. We were able to go to South America, Australia, Europe, Asia and Africa and come back as the tides turned. Thank God he had that insight and foresight."