Jon Bon Jovi talks being the 'poster-boy' for white privilege and why his new album isn't political: 'I'm not taking sides'

Erin Donnelly
·2 mins read

Bon Jovi is famed for their chart-topping hits inspired by love and, erm, livin’ on a prayer. But 2020 has been a headier muse, one that frontman Jon Bon Jovi is expressing via lyrics about protests, economic struggles and a country that, as his new song “American Reckoning” puts it, is “on fire.”

“If you're a writer, this is fertile ground,” the 58-year-old rocker tells CBS Sunday Morning in a new interview. “I mean, it's almost put me in this position emotionally right now that I don't know why I would ever wanna rewrite 'You Give Love a Bad Name,' you know?’ And now I'm just going, 'This is all I need to be writing.' Moments in history, moments in my history, moments in time."

But while it’s an election year, the New Jersey native is quick to clarify that his band’s latest album, fittingly titled 2020, isn’t a political one.

"Because I'm not taking sides," he tells CBS’s Lee Cowan. "I don't care about your politics. I care about you just realizing that in a world in which we live, we're breathing the same air."

Jon Bon Jovi is addressing the turmoil of 2020 in his new album. (Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Jon Bon Jovi is addressing the turmoil of 2020 in his new album. (Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

“American Reckoning” also references the Black Lives Matter movement, with lyrics like “Another mother's crying, as history repeats/I can't breathe.” According to Bon Jovi, he checked his white privilege and sought approval from individuals “who could opine” while writing the song.

“If I'm not the poster-boy for what could be described as white privilege, then who is?" he says. "I'm an older, white, affluent celebrity, you know? I got it. So, I had to be very careful, and I ran it by friends and people I didn't know, who could opine.

"And they did. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote, and I wanted to make sure that I was adding something to the conversation, but made sure I did my homework."

Even with this intense new material, the rock star admits that he’ll almost certainly go down in history for one ‘80s anthem in particular.

"You know, that song will be mentioned in my obituary someday: 'The co-writer of 'Livin' On a Prayer' is dead tonight,'" he laughs, adding he only thought the song was “OK” at the time.

That said, “there's no greater joy in my life than writing a song and thinking that that is the closest thing to immortality anyone can ever realize," he says. "It's something that'll live well beyond your time here. So, that gives me the greatest joy."

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