Daily Camera (Boulder)

Bon Jovi digs deep with new al­bum

- By Ge­orge Varga Musicians · Celebrities · Music · Rock Music · Bon Jovi · New Jersey · JBJ · New York City · Washington · Columbia · Redbank, New Jersey · Instagram · MTV · Richie Sambora · Rock and Roll · Jon Bon Jovi · East End of London · The Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation

Jon Bon Jovi and the band he has proudly led since 1983 achieved per­haps their big­gest blaze of glory as 2018 in­ductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But the New Jersey-bred singer, song­writer and gui­tarist isn’t about to rest on his lau­rels, es­pe­cially not when the nation is be­set with con­stant so­cial and po­lit­i­cal un­rest, wide­spread eco­nomic woes and the lifechang­ing COVID-19 pan­demic, which has struck two of his band mates and his 18-year-old son, Ja­cob.

That is why the Grammy- and Golden Globe-win­ning troubadour rolled up his sleeves, lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively, and set out to lend a help­ing hand.

“Hope­fully, you do some­thing to make the lives of oth­ers a lit­tle bet­ter,” said Bon Jovi, who backs up his words with both dol­lars and el­bow grease.

On April 20, as the pan­demic in­ten­si­fied, rather than post­pone his band’s 2020 con­cert trek — as many other mu­sic acts have done with their tours — he can­celed it.

“I was very aware, in light of what was com­ing down, that peo­ple were in need of dis­pos­able in­come for gro­ceries, or pay­ing the rent, or credit card bills,” Bon Jovi said. “With no fore­see­able tour in the fu­ture, I thought it best to re­fund ev­ery­one’s tick­ets.”

On May 13 — two days be­fore the orig­i­nally planned re­lease date of his band’s heart­felt new al­bum, “2020” — he and his wife of 31 years, Dorothea, launched the JBJ Soul Kitchen Food Bank to ser­vice food pantries and hunger-relief or­ga­ni­za­tions on the East End of Long Is­land, New York.

The food bank is the lat­est chapter in the cou­ple’s 14-year-old Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foun­da­tion, a non­profit that op­er­ates com­mu­nity restau­rants in three New Jersey cities. It has also helped fund more than 700 units of af­ford­able hous­ing in 11 states and the District of Columbia.

This spring, Bon Jovi spent time wash­ing dishes at the JBJ Soul Kitchen restau­rant in Red Bank, N.J. His wife posted a photo on In­sta­gram of him wear­ing an apron and scrub­bing away at a sink, with the words: “If you can’t do what you do ... do what you can!”

‘Part of be­ing an adult’

His vol­un­teer kitchen ten­ure in­spired “Do What You Can.” It is one of two stir­ring new songs he wrote this year and recorded with his so­cially dis­tanced band in June for “2020,” whose re­lease date was pushed back from May to last Fri­day. “Do What You Can” is surely the first song by any rock su­per­star to be in­spired by their ex­pe­ri­ence wash­ing dishes, dur­ing a pan­demic, at a restau­rant that op­er­ates on a “pay what you can” ba­sis.

“This is just a part of my own jour­ney,” he said, speak­ing by phone re­cently while driv­ing from New York to New Jersey.

“Dur­ing the course of that jour­ney, my wife and I be­came much more aware of the world around us. So, when we started the foun­da­tion some 14 or 15 years ago, the foun­da­tion found its fo­cus in home­less and hunger is­sues. We’ve con­tin­ued on that path with the kitchens and food bank. But that’s just part of be­ing an adult — and part of the dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing 21 and 58.”

Bon Jovi was 21 in 1983, the year he and his band signed their al­bum deal with Mer­cury Records. The group’s de­but al­bum came out in early 1984. Thanks to its hit sin­gle, “Run­away,” and heavy MTV air­play for the song’s video, fame and for­tune soon beck­oned. Char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tions and help­ing those in need were not among Bon Jovi’s pri­mary goals at that time.

“You have a pretty much sin­gle­minded fo­cus when you start in a rock band,” he said. “And that’s to make mu­sic, get bet­ter at your craft and play for peo­ple. So­cial obli­ga­tion wasn’t first and fore­most on my list then. I was very con­scious of things, but — where I grew up and at the time that I grew up — there wasn’t a lot of con­flict.

“It was just a lot of hard-work­ing, blue-col­lar peo­ple and a mid­dle-class up­bring­ing for me and the guys in the band, and that helped to shape us. As you travel and see the world and its in­jus­tices, and as you get older and live and learn, one would hope you grow. In that growth, hope­fully you do some­thing to make the lives of oth­ers a lit­tle bet­ter.”

The world and its in­jus­tices are re­cur­ring themes on “2020.” It is Bon Jovi’s fol­low-up to 2016’s “This House Is Not for Sale,” the band’s first al­bum with­out gui­tarist Richie Samb­ora, who abruptly quit in 2013.

Named, in part, to ac­knowl­edge this tu­mul­tuous elec­tion year, “2020” is the 15th stu­dio al­bum of the band’s ca­reer. By far the group’s most se­ri­ous-minded work to date — or what its leader calls a “state­ment record” — the al­bum finds him un­abashedly wear­ing his heart on his sleeve. If “2020’s” lofty goals some­times feel slightly beyond his reach, his cre­ative stretch­ing is im­pres­sive. And the al­bum’s best songs new songs of­fer a win­ning com­bi­na­tion of grit, heart and craft­man­ship.

Top­i­cal, so­cially con­scious songs”i think the ti­tle is all-en­com­pass­ing,” Bon Jovi said of “2020.”

“It’s what you want it to be, a date in your cal­en­dar, an elec­tion, or a clear vi­sion. Like any other piece of art, it should be in the eye of the be­holder.”

From any van­tage point, “2020” fea­tures the most top­i­cal and so­cially con­scious songs Bon Jovi’s leader has writ­ten. The sober­ing sub­jects he ad­dresses re­flect the cur­rent frac­tured state of the nation, al­though he stresses that “2020” is not a po­lit­i­cal al­bum.

“With this record, as a song­writer, it gave me pur­pose,” Bon Jovi said. “So, I wrote a top­i­cal record with some ob­ser­va­tions about what I’ve wit­nessed over the last year.”

 ?? David Becker / Getty Im­ages ?? Record­ing artist Jon Bon Jovi, left, per­forms at an early vote event for Obama for Amer­ica at the House of Blues in­side the Man­dalay Bay Re­sort & Casino on the last day Ne­vadans are able to reg­is­ter to vote Oct. 6, 2012 in Las Ve­gas, Nev.
David Becker / Getty Im­ages Record­ing artist Jon Bon Jovi, left, per­forms at an early vote event for Obama for Amer­ica at the House of Blues in­side the Man­dalay Bay Re­sort & Casino on the last day Ne­vadans are able to reg­is­ter to vote Oct. 6, 2012 in Las Ve­gas, Nev.

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