Jon Bon Jovi reflects on voice surgery and recovery in 'Thank You, Goodnight': NPR

Jon Bon Jovi, seen here in 2011, says the 1986 hit “Livin' on a Prayer” has “touched more lives than I ever imagined.”

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David Bergman/Hulu


Jon Bon Jovi, seen here in 2011, says the 1986 hit “Livin' on a Prayer” has “touched more lives than I ever imagined.”

David Bergman/Hulu

After decades of singing anthemic songs like “Livin' on a Prayer” to sold-out stadiums around the world, Jon Bon Jovi stopped performing a few years ago because he was having problems with his vocal chords.

“I used it too much,” the Bon Jovi singer says of his voice. “Even though I've been trained and studied the craft for 40 years, eventually the body gives out. It's no different than being an athlete.”

Bon Jovi tried all kinds of therapies, but when none proved effective enough, in the summer of 2022 he did what he had hoped to avoid: he underwent voice surgery. The new Hulu docuseries Thank You, Good Night: The Bon Jovi Story alternates between a retrospective of Bon Jovi's life and career and his reckoning with his voice injury.

“The process was slower than I had hoped, but the progress and the process are doing very well,” Bon Jovi said of his recovery. “Right now I can sing. For me, the bar now is: Can I do two and a half hours a night, four nights a week?”

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of his band's first album, a new Bon Jovi album called Forever, will be released in June. In this interview, Bon Jovi performs “Kiss the Bride,” an unreleased song from the album he wrote for his daughter, who is engaged.

“My little girl is all grown up and she's about to walk down the aisle,” he says of the song. “I cried when we wrote it. I cried when I sang it in the studio. I have yet to play it for my daughter.”

Interview highlights

On his first break, in 1983

I think the only thing you could ever have prayed for was that someone would give you a chance. And for me, that opportunity came when I went to DJ in 1983 and was lucky that that new radio station didn't have a receptionist. When I tapped on the broadcast booth window, the DJ signaled “quiet” by putting his finger over his lips, and the program director came out. He said, “How can I help you?” And I told him I'd like him to hear some music. They asked me to wait until after the service. He came out, he heard that song”Run away“, and he said, “That's a hit.” I said, “I know.” And then they told me about a homegrown talent album they wanted to support, and that song could be on that record. I know that that would lead to a major recording contract that I still have now, some forty years later.

About how Bruce Springsteen made it feasible to become a rock star

I was also influenced by what was [then] contemporary rock 'n' roll – Queen and Led Zeppelin and Bad Company and Elton John and whatever was on the radio in the late '70s. But those things just seemed larger than life. They were just posters on your wall. While Southside Johnny and Bruce Springsteen, even though they made albums and were my childhood heroes, were 25 miles south of my house. So every night in those bars you're going to see one of those guys hanging out in the bar. And it was like being so close to Santa Claus because something fictional became reality. You could start touching them. You could talk to them. You could check them out.

On the band's 1986 hitLiving on a prayer”

It's the age-old story of boy and girl. But Tommy and Gina have become the boy and girl of everyone's love story. That song has transcended language barriers, generations and political beliefs. Black, white, young, old, Democrat, Republican. “Livin' on a Prayer” has touched more lives than I could ever imagine.

The anthems are what the band is known for. We've been pretty good at it over the years, but I think it's the lyrical content that keeps people coming back. … 'Livin' on a Prayer' and 'It's My Life' or 'Legendary', these songs have all touched people all over the world, and we are blessed enough to continue to think of them.

About trying different looks for his stage persona

Because you grew up in public, you started doing things and trying things out and seeing what kind of shoes fit. And blue jeans and T-shirts were what we were meant to be. But honestly, in 1984, '85, '86, when you were told by the 'record company' and the managers, the agents and the headliners you supported, 'this will help you become more successful', we probably had shoes were trying on things that didn't fit. And we were lumped in with a certain group of bands whose records I never bought and wasn't necessarily a fan of. But we were cutting our teeth on that international stage, and that was okay, because… we took what we learned in those formative years and then went back home.

About whether the voice injury made him consider retirement

I love what I do and the audience deserves the best from me, and I can only give the best. I'm not willing to go through the motions there or change the key of the songs. I'm just not interested. That said, I can always write another record, honestly. I'm not worried about my ability to write another song. …I could have walked away. I just didn't have to come to that conclusion because, as I said, the process and progress are stable.

At the time, I think the year 2000 was as far ahead as I ever dreamed, because it was that magical science fiction song. I never dreamed of 2024 and a 40th anniversary. Who could have that? Forty years ago, if you had thought about where rock 'n' roll would be for men and women sixty and older, there was no one to point to. And now you can watch [and see] The Rolling Stones are over 80, the E Street Band is over 70, and U2 and Bon Jovi are over 60 and very active.

Lauren Krenzel and Susan Nyakundi produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Bridget Bentz, Molly Seavy-Nesper and Daoud Tyler-Ameen adapted it for the web.

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