How Bon Jovi blurred the boundaries between rock and country
07 June 2023
Formed in 1983, Bon Jovi has enjoyed a successful career that has spanned four decades. Though Bon Jovi has often been coined as glam metal or pop rock, the band from Sayreville, New Jersey has blurred the boundaries between rock and country music from the very beginning, being played not only on popular radio but country radio too. Without further ado, let's take a look at how Bon Jovi draws upon country themes and anthemic rock riffs, creating what many refer to as 'cowboy rock'.
'I'm a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride' Throughout their time in the charts, Bon Jovi has released many cowboy-inspired rock anthems. The first - and perhaps the most notable - is the 1987 single Wanted Dead Or Alive, the third single from the 1986 album Slippery When Wet. Written by frontman Jon Bon Jovi and lead guitarist Richie Sambora, Wanted Dead Or Alive is said to have spawned from Jon's adoration for the Wild West, likening the tale of a Western to that of the modern touring rock band. Jon is also said to have taken inspiration from Bob Seger's Turn The Page.
Over the years, Wanted Dead Or Alive has been used as the theme tune for Deadliest Catch on Discovery, and has featured on the soundtrack of multiple films and TV shows like Scooby Doo 2, Supernatural, and The Vampire Diaries, to name a few. The track has also inspired a wide range of media of its own, including, but by no means limited to, online casino games like Wanted Dead Or A Wild and Dead or Alive 2. In fact, there are several slot games - all of which you can find on casino.betfair.com/p/slots - that are inspired by musical phenomena, such as Ancient Disco (think The Bangles' Walk Like an Egyptian), Punk Rocker (riffing off the 1970s British punk era), and Wild Hot Chilli Reels (a la the Red Hot Chilli Peppers).
'Just a hometown boy, born a rolling stone' Two decades after the massive hit that was Wanted Dead Or Alive, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora again embraced country themes for the 2006 single Who Says You Can't Go Home, taken from the band's ninth studio album Have a Nice Day (2005). The song reached number one in the country charts, and as a result, Bon Jovi became the first rock band to achieve that feat. The track expresses Jon's love for his hometown in New Jersey, and the loneliness felt whilst touring, again drawing parallels between cowboy-types of the Wild West and touring musicians.
Further to this, the band recorded two distinct versions of the song - the original, and the 'country version'. The latter was originally intended to be a duet with country music legend Keith Urban, who also laid down banjo accompaniment for the recording. However, after deciding that it needed a feminine perspective, the final country version became a duet with Jennifer Nettles, lead singer of Sugarland. After release, Who Says You Can't Go Home made its debut on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in December 2005, and peaked at number one in the chart in May 2006, holding the top spot for two weeks.
Bon Jovi went on to feature in the country charts twice more in 2007, with (You Want To) Make a Memory and 'Till We Ain't Strangers Anymore (featuring LeAnn Rimes), which peaked at numbers 35 and 47 respectively.