Jon Bon Jovi talks Jersey 4 Jersey benefit, ‘Do What You Can,’ and being a social-distancing meme

“I'm pretty inept when it comes to social media stuff,” Jon Bon Jovi admits to Yahoo Entertainment, speaking by phone from New Jersey to discuss his upcoming all-star Jersey 4 Jersey pandemic relief benefit and new crowd-sourced single, “Do What You Can.”

Therefore, at the time of his interview, he has yet to see the official New Jersey State’s new social-distancing PSA on Twitter, which recommends that citizens “keep at least 1.05 Bon Jovis of space” between themselves at all times.

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But the rock star and Garden State icon bursts into laughter upon learning that — according to other NJ-centric memes in the same Twitter thread — “1.05 Bon Jovis” is the equivalent of “1.28 Snookis,” “1.25 Danny DeVitos,” or one “Springsteen unit.”

“I like it, because it’s not quite 6 foot. The governor just had to get that in there. The governor cheated me!” he jokes. “I'm not quite 6 foot, and he let the world know it. I'm only 5'10" and a half — therefore, ‘1.05 Jon Bon Jovis’ away.” He is further amused to learn of a fan’s suggestion: that an even more pouffy-haired ‘80s photo would add a few inches, thus rounding off the Bon Jovi meme measurement to 6 feet.

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In all seriousness, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy probably doesn’t oversee that Twitter account, but he and New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy are dear friends with Bon Jovi — and now they’ve all joined forces for Jersey 4 Jersey, which will broadcast April 22.

“Because we are the second-hardest-hit state in the nation and there is a need to get behind this New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, the governor was trying to think of ways that would be specific to New Jersey,” the rock legend explains. “And so I volunteered to do a show, in whatever shape it would take. The next phone call was to Bruce [Springsteen], and he immediately agreed. … All of the participants jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it.”

Also scheduled to appear at the event are many of New Jersey’s finest, including Tony Bennett, Charlie Puth, SZA, Halsey, Chelsea Handler, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg… and all 4’10” of the aforementioned Danny DeVito.

One of the songs Bon Jovi will be performing at Jersey 4 Jersey, for the first time in concert, is the original version of “Do What You Can.” The anthem was inspired by an Instagram photo that his wife Dorothea took of him last month at JBJ Soul Kitchen (his chain of farm-to-table community restaurants to feed people in need, which opened in 2011 in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy), where he has been rolling up his sleeves and volunteering five days a week during the pandemic.

“I didn't realize that Dorothea had taken a picture of me,” he explains. “So there I was, washing dishes. She takes a picture, wants to put it on our social media site — not for publicity, but to say to people, ‘Hey, we're here in this time of need.’ And she said, ‘What should the caption be?’ And I said, ‘If you can't do what you do, you do what you can.’ And I let it go. The next day, as I was taking a run, I thought, ‘Wait a minute.’ The songwriter in me came out and said, ‘That's a chorus!’ And I sat down and wrote the song in its entirety. And as I was writing it, I was being very careful that the lyric. I wasn't taking any hyperbole. Everything had to be spot-on, because we're really living this together.”

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That was when Bon Jovi came up with the idea to have his fans contribute, sharing their own lyrics about what they’re going through during the coronavirus crisis. “This is a moment of truth, and everyone's truth is going to be a little bit different — but ultimately, really the same,” he explains. “So I thought to myself, ‘If I shared the chorus and a verse and told America to write me a verse, maybe I could pick some of those and share them back with them online.’ And so, I got thousands of verses. I'd go online and I'd pick four or five at a time, and sing them and put them back online. And it was fun, because people told me their stories, and it was a way to interact and give comfort to those who were as scared as I was.

“I'm going to record the song with the band. And now that the album is delayed, I'll include it on the album. I didn't intend to write another song for the record — but now I have.”

While Bon Jovi is continuing to connect with fans through “Do What You Can” and the upcoming Jersey 4 Jersey benefit, and with his community via his work at JBJ Soul Kitchen, he too is having to adjust to the new abnormal of the COVID-19 era. His band’s 15th studio album, Bon Jovi: 2020, which apparently will now include “Do What You Can,” has been delayed, as have the band’s tour dates that were supposed to kick off in June. For the time being, it looks like live-streamed home concerts will be Bon Jovi’s main performance format, as is the case for musicians around the world.

“It's like a bad dream,” the singer laments. “I was going to release our new album on May 15, and rehearsals were to begin this week. I was just going to do 20 arenas as a warm-up to promote the album, and then do the big stuff after that. Not only are the 20 shows postponed, but I don't know when they'll happen. And depending on what you read, none of us knows what's going to happen in the future.”

But, true to his latest song title, Bon Jovi is just going to do what he can. “All we can do right now is participate by social-distancing and being optimistic that a cure is being worked on by the great scientists in America, in all of the world,” he says. “And if we keep positive, we'll figure something out. But in the meantime, patience is the biggest contribution that every person can make, so we don't do a boomerang and too quickly go back to our daily lives and our daily routines. Someday, when touring is available to people like me, we'll go out and we'll hug the crowds again. But until then, we're all in this together. So, if that means I have to write you a song and sing it from my living room, I will.”

And remember, everyone: Make sure to maintain 1.05 Jon Bon Jovis of space from other people at all times.

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