meta-scriptListen: Revisit Jon Bon Jovi's Greatest Hits & Deep Cuts Ahead Of MusiCares' Person Of The Year 2024 Gala |
Jon Bon Jovi performance photo
Jon Bon Jovi

Photo: Courtesy of Jon Bon Jovi


Listen: Revisit Jon Bon Jovi's Greatest Hits & Deep Cuts Ahead Of MusiCares' Person Of The Year 2024 Gala

Explore the musical milestones of Jon Bon Jovi's career, from his "Livin' On A Prayer" days with Bon Jovi to his solo acts, before he's honored at the 2024 MusicCares Person Of The Year gala on Friday, Feb. 2.

MusiCares/Jan 25, 2024 - 08:07 pm

As a singer/songwriter, charismatic band leader and solo artist, Jon Bon Jovi has made a remarkable impact on the music industry with his distinctive voice and memorable rock anthems. But he's also made a difference in his local community and beyond with his Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, which is why he's the 2024 MusicCares Person of the Year.

Before Bon Jovi is honored at the Feb. 2 gala, revisit the breadth of his career through this essential curation of tracks from his early band days to his solo pursuits. 

After breaking out in the 1980s, Jon Bon Jovi's illustrious career started with his work as the frontman for his eponymous band Bon Jovi. Known for fist-pumping hits like "Livin' On A Prayer," "It's My Life," and "You Give Love A Bad Name," the group's sound became synonymous with the high-energy glam rock and power ballads of the era. 

Later, as a solo act, Jon Bon Jovi explored soulful melodies through tracks like "Janie, Don't Take Your Love to Town'' and collaborations with artists from other genres including country singer/songwriter LeAnn Rimes on "Til We Ain't Strangers Anymore." 

Together, the acts of his career are bookends on the testament to his enduring impact on rock music and pop culture. 

Below, rediscover the mosaic of Jon Bon Jovi's music through a special Amazon Music playlist.

David Bryan, Jon Bon Jovi and Tico Torres attend the UK Premiere of "Thank You and Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story" on April 17, 2024 in London, England
David Bryan, Jon Bon Jovi and Tico Torres attend the UK Premiere of "Thank You and Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story"

Photo: Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Disney+


10 Facts About Jon Bon Jovi: A Friendship With Springsteen, Philanthropy, Football Fanaticism & More

Ahead of the band's new album 'Forever,' out June 7, and a new Hulu documentary, "Thank you, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story," read on for 10 facts about the GRAMMY-winning group and its MusiCares Person Of The Year frontman.

GRAMMYs/Jun 6, 2024 - 06:55 pm

Bon Jovi have officially been in the cultural conversation for five decades — and it looks like we'll never say goodbye. 

The band's self-titled debut album was unleashed upon the world in 1984, and lead single "Runaway" made some waves. Yet the New Jersey group didn't truly break through until their third album, the 12 million-selling Slippery When Wet. By the late 1980s, they were arguably the biggest rock band in the world, selling out massive shows in arenas and stadiums. 

Since, Bon Jovi releases have consistently topped album charts (six of their studio albums hit No. 1). A big reason for their continued success is that, unlike a majority of their ‘80s peers, frontman Jon Bon Jovi made sure that they adapted to changing times while retaining the spirit of their music — from the anthemic stomp of 1986’s "Bad Medicine" to the Nashville crossover of 2005’s "Who Says You Can’t Go Home." It also doesn’t hurt that the 2024 MusiCares Person Of The Year has aged very gracefully; his winning smile and charismatic personality ever crush-worthy.

Their fifth decade rocking the planet has been marked by many other milestones: The release of  a four-part Hulu documentary, "Thank you, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story"; Bon Jovi's 16th studio album Forever, and fan hopes for the return of original guitarist Richie Sambora who left unexpectedly in 2013. Despite all of these positive notes, there is an ominous cloud hanging over the group as their singer had to undergo vocal surgery following disappointing, consistently off-key performances on the group's 2022 U.S. tour. Even afterward, he remains unsure whether he’ll be able to tour again. But Bon Jovi remains popular and with Sambora expressing interest in a reunion, it's plausible that we could see them back on stage again somehow.

Jon Bon Jovi has also had quite a multifaceted career spun off of his success in music, as shown by the following collection of fascinating facts.

Jon Bon Jovi Sung With Bruce Springsteen When He Was 17

By the time he was in high school, Jon Bongiovi (his original, pre-fame last name) was already fronting his first serious group. The Atlantic City Expressway was a 10-piece with a horn section that performed well-known tunes from Jersey acts like Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.

They regularly played The Fast Lane, and one night Bruce Springsteen was in the audience. To Bon Jovi’s surprise, The Boss jumped onstage to join them. The two later became good friends — during his MusiCares performance, Bon Jovi introduced Springsteen as "my mentor, my friend, my brother, my hero."

Jon Recorded Bon Jovi’s First Hit Before The Band Formed

Although "Runaway" was the debut single and lone Top 40 hit from Bon Jovi's first two albums, it was recorded as a professional demo back in 1982. 

Bon Jovi got a gig as a gopher at Power Station, the famed studio co-owned by his second cousin Tony Bongiovi where artists like the Rolling Stones, Diana Ross, and David Bowie recorded. (He watched even watched Bowie and Freddie Mercury record the vocals for "Under Pressure.")

The future rockstar cut "Runaway" (which was co-written mainly by George Karak) and other demos with session musicians — his friend, guitarist Aldo Nova, Rick Springfield/John Waite guitarist Tim Pierce, Springsteen keyboardist Roy Bittan, bassist Hugh McDonald (a future Bon Jovi member), and Scandal drummer Frankie LaRocca. The song first appeared on a WAPP compilation under his name, but then it was placed on Bon Jovi’s debut album. When the video for "Runway" was created nearly two years later, members of Bon Jovi were miming to other people’s performances. 

Although it is a classic, original guitarist Richie Sambora hates it and never wants to play it again.

He Eloped With His High School Sweetheart In April 1989

During the band’s world tour in support of New Jersey, Bon Jovi and Dorothea Hurley spontaneously eloped in a quickie wedding in Vegas. His bandmates and management were shocked to find this out; the latter probably feared that his ineligible bachelor status would harm their popularity with their ardent female fans. But it simply played more into his more wholesome image that differed from other hard rockers of the time. 

In May 2024, Bon Jovi’s son Jake secretly married "Stranger Things" actor Millie Bobby Brown. It was like history repeating itself, except this time family was involved.

Listen: Revisit Jon Bon Jovi's Greatest Hits & Deep Cuts Ahead Of MusiCares' Person Of The Year 2024 Gala

The Bongiovi Family Is Part Of The Bon Jovi Family

Back in the ‘80s, parents often didn’t like their kids’ music. However, Bon Jovi’s parents completely supported his. Mother Carol Bongiovi often chaperoned his early days when he was an underaged kid playing local clubs and bars in New Jersey. Father Jon Sr. was the group’s hair stylist until their third album, Slippery When Wet. He created his son's signature mane

Jon’s brother Matthew started as a production assistant in the band’s organization, then worked for their management before becoming his brother’s head of security and now his tour manager. His other brother Anthony became the director of a few Bon Jovi concert films and promo clips. He’s also directed concert films for Slayer and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Bon Jovi Is A Regular In Television & Film

After writing songs for the Golden Globe-winning "Young Guns II soundtrack (released as the solo album Blaze Of Glory) and getting a cameo in the Western’s opening, Bon Jovi was bitten by the acting bug. He studied with acclaimed acting coach Harold Guskin in the early ‘90s, then appeared as the romantic interest of Elizabeth Perkins in 1995's Moonlight and Valentino.

In other movies, Bon Jovi played a bartender who’s a recovering alcoholic (Little City), an ex-con turning over a new leaf (Row Your Boat), a failed father figure (Pay It Forward), a suburban dad and pot smoker (Homegrown), and a Navy Lieutenant in WWII (U-571). The band’s revival in 2000 slowed his acting aspirations, but he appeared for 10 episodes of "Ally McBeal," playing her love interest in 2002. 

Elsewhere on the silver screen, the singer has also portrayed a vampire hunter (Vampiros: Los Muertos), a duplicitous professor (Cry Wolf), the owner of a women’s hockey team (Pucked), and a rock star willing to cancel a tour for the woman he loves (New Year’s Eve). He hasn’t acted since 2011, but who knows when he might make a guest appearance?

Jon Bon Jovi Once Co-Owned A Football Team

In 2004, Bon Jovi became one of the co-founders and co-majority owner of the Philadelphia Soul, which were part of the Arena Football League (AFL). (Sambora was a minority shareholder.) The team name emerged in a satirical scene from "It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia" during which Danny DeVito’s character tries to buy the team for a paltry sum and twice butchers the singer’s name.

Jon stuck with the team until 2009, a year after they won Arena Bowl XXII, defeating the San Jose SaberCats. He then set his eyes on a bigger prize, the Buffalo Bills, aligning himself with a group of Toronto investors in 2011. One of his biggest competitors? Donald Trump, who ran a smear campaign alleging that the famed singer would move the team to Toronto. 

In the end, neither man purchased the team as they were outbid by Terry and Kim Pegula, who still own the Bills today.

Jon & Richie Sambora Wrote Songs For Other Artists

Having cranked out massive hits with songwriter Desmond Child, Bon Jovi and Sambora decided to write or co-write songs for and with other artists. 

In 1987, they co-wrote and produced the Top 20 hit "We All Sleep Alone" with Child for Cher, and also co-wrote the Top 40 hit "Notorious" with members of Loverboy. In 1989, the duo paired up again Loverboy guitarist Paul Dean for his solo rocker "Under The Gun" and bequeathed the New Jersey outtake "Does Anybody Really Fall in Love Anymore?" (co-written with Child and Diane Warren) to Cher. 

The Bon Jovi/Sambora song "Peace In Our Time" was recorded by Russian rockers Gorky Park. In 1990, Paul Young snagged the New Jersey leftover "Now and Forever," while the duo penned "If You Were in My Shoes" with Young, though neither song was released. In 2009, Bon Jovi and Sambora were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame for their contributions to music.

Jon Bon Jovi Once Ran His Own Record Label

For a brief time in 1991, he ran his own record label, Jambco, which was distributed through Bon Jovi’s label PolyGram Records. The only two artists he signed were Aldo Nova and Billy Falcon, a veteran singer/songwriter who became Bon Jovi's songwriting partner in the 2000s. Neither of their albums (Aldo Nova’s Blood On The Bricks and Billy Falcon’s Pretty Blue World) were big sellers, and the label folded quickly when they began losing money.

Still, the experience gave Bon Jovi the chance to learn about the music business. That experience helped after he fired original manager Doc McGhee in 1991 and took over his band’s managerial reins until 2015.

Bon Jovi's Vocal Issues Aren't New

Although Jon Bon Jovi's vocal problems have become a major issue recently, they stem back to the late 1980s. It's doubtful as to whether Jon had proper vocal training for a rock band at the start. 

The group did 15-month tours to support both the Slippery When Wet and New Jersey albums. Near the end of the grueling Slippery tour, Bon Jovi was getting steroid injections because his voice was suffering.

While his voice held up into the 2000s, it has become apparent over the last decade that his singing is rougher than it used to be. As shown in the Hulu new documentary, the singer has been struggling to maintain his voice. It’s natural for older rock singers to lose some range — it’s been very rare to hear him sing any of the high notes in "Livin’ On A Prayer" over the last 20 years — but he admitshe is unsure whether he can ever tour again, even with recent surgery.

Bon Jovi Has Been A Philanthropist For Over Three Decades

Back in the 1980s, the upbeat Bon Jovi made it clear that they were not going to be a toned-down political band. But in the ‘90s, he and the band toned down their look, evolved their sound, and offered a more mature outlook on life. 

Reflecting this evolved viewpoint,  the band started an annual tradition of playing a December concert in New Jersey to raise money for various charitable causes; the concert series began in 1991 and continued with the band or Jon solo through at least 2015. The group have played various charitable concert events over the years including the Twin Towers Relief Benefit, Live 8 in Philadelphia, and The Concert For Sandy Relief. 

By the late 2000s, Jon and Dorothea founded the JBJ Soul Kitchen to serve meals at lower costs to people who cannot afford them. COVID-19 related food shortages led the couple to found  the JBJ Soul Kitchen Food Bank. Their JBJ Soul Foundation supports affordable housing and has rebuilt and refurbished homes through organizations like Project H.O.M.E., Habitat For Humanity, and Rebuilding Together.

While he may be a superstar, Jon Bon Jovi still believes in helping others. For his considerable efforts, he was honored as the 2024 MusiCares Person Of The Year during 2024 GRAMMY Week.

Listen: Revisit Jon Bon Jovi's Greatest Hits & Deep Cuts Ahead Of MusiCares' Person Of The Year 2024 Gala

Collage image featuring photos of the presenters for the 2024 GRAMMY nominations


How To Watch The 2024 GRAMMY Nominations: St. Vincent, Jeff Tweedy, Muni Long, Kim Petras, Jon Bon Jovi, "Weird Al" Yankovic & More To Announce The Nominees; Streaming Live Friday, Nov. 10

The nominations for the 2024 GRAMMYs will be announced on Friday, Nov 10, starting at 7:45 a.m. PT / 10:45 a.m. ET. Watch it live on and YouTube.

GRAMMYs/Oct 30, 2023 - 02:00 pm

It's that time again: The 2024 GRAMMYs is just a few months out — airing live Sunday, Feb. 4, from Arena in Los Angeles. Which means nominations for the 2024 GRAMMYs are just around the corner. On Friday, Nov 10, starting at 7:45 a.m. PT / 10:45 a.m. ET, nominations for the 2024 GRAMMYs will be announced via a livestream event airing live on The nominations will also stream live on the Recording Academy's YouTube channel

The 2024 GRAMMYs nominations livestream event will feature a diverse cast of some of the leading voices in music today, including St. Vincent, Jeff Tweedy, Muni Long, Kim Petras, 2024 MusiCares Person Of The Year Jon Bon Jovi, and many others, who will be announcing the 2024 GRAMMY nominees across all 94 categories. Plus, the livestream event will also feature an exclusive GRAMMY Nominations Pre-Show and Wrap-Up Show, which will both feature exclusive videos and conversations about the biggest stories and trends to come out of the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations.

City National Bank is the Official Bank of the GRAMMYs and proud sponsor of the 66th Annual GRAMMY Awards Nominations.

See below for a full guide to the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations livestream event happening next week:

Read More: How To Watch The 2024 GRAMMYs Live: GRAMMY Nominations Announcement, Air Date, Red Carpet, Streaming Channel & More

How Can I Watch The 2024 GRAMMY Nominations? 

The nominations livestream event will stream live on and the Recording Academy's YouTube channel.

When Are The 2024 GRAMMY Nominations Announced?

The 2024 GRAMMYs nominations will be announced Friday, Nov 10. The day kicks off with an exclusive GRAMMY Nominations Pre-Show, starting at 7:45 a.m. PT / 10:45 a.m. ET. Hosted by Emmy-winning TV host and “GMA3” contributor Rocsi Diaz, the GRAMMY Nominations Pre-Show will give music fans an inside look at the various initiatives and campaigns that the Recording Academy, the organization behind the annual GRAMMY Awards, supports on a year-long basis on its mission to recognize excellence in the recording arts and sciences and cultivate the well-being of the music community.

Afterward, starting at 8 a.m. PT / 11 a.m. ET, the GRAMMY nominations livestream event begins. The livestream event will begin with a special presentation announcing the nominees in the General Field categories, aka the Big Six, as well as select categories. On, exclusive videos announcing the nominees across multiple categories will stream as a multi-screen livestream event that users can control, providing a dynamic, expansive online experience for music fans of all genres. The nomination videos will also stream live on YouTube. The full list of 2024 GRAMMYs nominees will then be published on and immediately following the livestream event.

After the nominations are announced, stay tuned for an exclusive GRAMMY Nominations Wrap-Up Show. Co-hosted by "Entertainment Tonight" correspondents Cassie DiLaura and Denny Directo, the Wrap-Up Show will break down all the notable news and top stories from the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations. The GRAMMY Nominations Wrap-Up Show will stream live on as well as the Recording Academy's YouTube channel, X profile, Twitch channel, TikTok page, Instagram profile, and Facebook page.

Watch the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations livestream event and make sure to use #GRAMMYs to join the conversation on social media as it unfolds live on Friday, Nov. 10.

The schedule for the 2024 GRAMMYs nominations livestream event is as follows:

GRAMMY Nominations Pre-Show
7:45 a.m. PT / 10:45 a.m. ET

Nominations Livestream Event
8 a.m. PT / 11 a.m. ET 

Nominations Livestream Event Ends & Full Nominations Revealed
8:25 a.m. PT / 11:25 a.m. ET 

GRAMMY Nominations Wrap-Up Show
8:25 a.m. PT / 11:25 a.m. ET

^All times are approximate and subject to change.

Read More: Three New Categories Added For The 2024 GRAMMYs: Best African Music Performance, Best Alternative Jazz Album & Best Pop Dance Recording

Who's Announcing The 2024 GRAMMY Nominations?

Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. will be joined by GRAMMY winners Arooj Aftab, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Jimmy Jam, Jon Bon Jovi, Samara Joy, Muni Long, Cheryl Pawelski, Kim Petras, Judith Sherman, St. Vincent, Jeff Tweedy, and "Weird Al" Yankovic, along with "CBS Mornings" co-hosts Gayle King, Nate Burleson, and Tony Dokoupil, to announce all the nominees for the 2024 GRAMMYs. 

When Are The 2024 GRAMMYs?

The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, will air live on Sunday, Feb. 4, at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT from Arena in Los Angeles. Music's Biggest Night will air live on the CBS Television Network and stream on Paramount+. 

Mark your calendars now for the 2024 GRAMMY nominations happening Friday, Nov 10.

With additional reporting by Morgan Enos.

2024 GRAMMYs: 4 Things To Know About The New Categories & Changes

Music Charities to Support

Photo: Suriyawut Suriya / EyeEm via Getty Images


9 Organizations Helping Music Makers In Need: MusiCares, The GRAMMY Museum & Others

Are you in a position to donate to musicians in a state of financial or personal crisis on this GivingTuesday? Check out these nine charitable organizations — beneath the Recording Academy umbrella and otherwise.

GRAMMYs/Nov 29, 2022 - 03:17 pm

Imagine a world where care and concern is distributed in a holistic circuit, rather than being hoarded away or never employed at all. That's the paradigm that GivingTuesday is reaching toward.

Created in 2012 under the simple precept of being generous and celebrating generosity, GivingTuesday is a practical hub for getting involved in one's community and giving as freely to benefit and nourish others.

Since GivingTuesday has swelled not just from a single day in the calendar year, but a lens through which to view the other 364 days. You can find your local GivingTuesday network here, find ways to participate here, and find ways to join  GivingTuesday events here.

Where does the Recording Academy come in? Helping musicians in need isn't something they do on the side, an afterthought while they hand out awards.

No, aiding music people is at the core of the Academy's mission. MusiCares, the Academy's philanthropic arm, has changed innumerable lives for the better.

And through this society of music professionals and its other major components — including  Advocacy, the GRAMMY Museum and GRAMMY U — the Academy continues its fight in legislative and educational forms.

If you're willing and able to help musicians in need this GivingTuesday, here's a helpful hub of nine charitable organizations with whom you can do so.


Any list of orgs that aid musicians would be remiss to not include MusiCares.

Through the generosity of donors and volunteer professionals, this organization of committed service members has been able to aid struggling music people in three key areas: mental health and addiction recovery services, health services, and human services.

For more information on each of those, visit here. To apply for assistance, click here. And to donate to MusiCares, head here.


"Museum" might be right there in the name, but there's a lot more to this precious sector of the Recording Academy.

The GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles doesn't just put on immersive exhibits that honor the legacies of musical giants; it's a hub for music education.

At press time, more than 20,000 students have visited the Museum, more than 10,000 students have participated in the Museum's Clive Davis theater, and 20,000 students have participated in their GRAMMY Camp weekends.

To donate to the GRAMMY Museum, click here. To become a member, visit here.

Give a Beat

By now, the evidence is ironclad: Giving incarcerated people access to music and art dramatically increases morale and decreases recidivism.

Give a Beat is keenly aware of this, both on direct-impact and mentorship levels.

The org hosts classes for incarcerated people, in order for them to "find healing, transformation, and empowerment" through its Prison Electronic Music Program, which helps incarcerated folks wade deep into the fields of music production and DJing.

Its On a New Track Reentry Mentoring Program initiative connects music industry professionals with formerly incarcerated individuals in order to transfer their skills into a professional setting.

To become a member of Give a Beat, click here. To donate, visit here.

Jazz Foundation of America

Despite being at the heart of American musical expression, jazz, blues and roots can sometimes feel roped off on the sidelines of the music industry — and its practitioners can slip between society's cracks.

That's where the Jazz Foundation of America comes in. They aid musicians struggling to hang onto their homes, connect physicians and specialists with uninsured artists and help musicians get back on their feet after life-upending natural disasters.

To donate to the Jazz Foundation, click here; for all other info, visit their website.

The Blues Foundation

Headquartered in Memphis, the Blues Foundation aims to preserve the history and heritage of the blues — which lies at the heart of all American forms. This goes not only for irreplaceable sites and artifacts, but the living, breathing people who continue to make it.

The Blues Foundation offers educational outreach, providing scholarships to youth performers to attend summer blues camps and workshops.

On top of that, in the early 2000s, they created the HART Fund to offer financial support to musicians in need of medical, dental, and vision care.

And for blues artists who have passed on, the HART Fund diverts money to their families  to ensure their loved ones would be guaranteed dignified funerals.

For more information on the Blues Foundation, visit here. To donate, click here.

Musicians Foundation

Founded all the way back when World War I broke out, the Musicians Foundation has spent more than a century cutting checks to musicians in times of need.

This includes financial grants to cover basic expenses, like medical and dental treatments, rents and mortgages and utilities. Submitted grant applications are reviewed by their staff and a screening committee. If approved, the money is dispatched rapidly and directly to the debtor to relieve financial pressure as soon as possible.

The Musicians Foundation's philanthropic legacy is enshrined in Century of Giving, a comprehensive analysis of financial aid granted to musicians and their families by the Foundation since 1914.

For more information, visit here; click here to donate.

Music Maker Foundation

Based in North Carolina, the Music Maker Foundation tends to the day-to-day needs of American roots artists — helping them negotiate crises so they can "keep roofs over their heads, food on their tables, [and] instruments in their hands."

This relief comes in the forms of basic sustenance, resources performance (like booking venues and providing CDs to sell) and spreading education about their contributions to the American roots canon.

Check out their website for more information; to donate, click here.

Sweet Relief: Musicians Fund

When music people are in danger, this charitable organization sees no barriers of genre, region or nature of crisis.

If you're a musician suffering from physical, mental or financial hardship — whether it be due to a disability, an affliction like cancer, or anything else — Sweet Relief has got your back.

There are numerous ways to support Sweet Relief; you can become a partner, intern or volunteer, or simply chip in a few bucks for one of their various funds to keep their selfless work moving.

For any and all further information, visit their website.

Music Workers Alliance

The Recording Academy's concern and consideration for music people hardly stops at musicians — they're here to support all music people.

They share this operating principle with Music Workers Alliance, which tirelessly labors to ensure music people are treated like they matter — and are fairly remunerated for their efforts.

This takes many forms, like fighting for music workers at the federal, state and city level for access to benefits and fair protections, and ensuring economic justice and fair working conditions.

Music Workers Alliance also fights for economic justice on the digital plane, and aims to provide equal access for people of color and other underrepresented groups in the industry.

For more info, visit their website; for ways to get involved, click here.

2023 GRAMMYs: How The New Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award Inspires Positive Global Impact & Celebrates Message-Driven Music and How To Qualify

Dave Navarro and Billy Morrison

Photo: Jim Donnelly


Dave Navarro & Billy Morrison Gear Up For Their Third Above Ground Concert: "We Have A Responsibility To Say It's OK To Ask For Help"

Jane's Addiction's Dave Navarro and Billy Idol's Billy Morrison have separately weathered the hells of addiction and lost famous friends to the disease. Via a rock 'n' roll catharsis, their third Above Ground concert will offer a beacon of hope.

GRAMMYs/Dec 16, 2021 - 08:24 pm

Music can be a salve, a companion, a fount of euphoria. But is that enough? It gave brilliant and complicated souls like Scott WeilandChester Bennington and Chris Cornell a tether to the world and cemented them in history, but their inner struggles nonetheless claimed them.

That's where MusiCares comes in, and why Dave Navarro — who knew all three of those rock legends — works with them. Together, they pull music colleagues out of the maw of addiction, depression and other menaces. Navarro wouldn't be able to access that storehouse of healing, though, without a liberal helping of gratitude.a

"Billy comically brought up show 47 on a world tour, and I know what he means by that," the six-time GRAMMY nominee tells MusiCares — referring to musician, producer and Billy Idol sideman Billy Morrison, who's dragging on a cigarette in the next Zoom window. "That's when you're just kind of in the trenches and the doldrums of it all."

Gavin Rossdale at Above Ground 2019. Photo: Jim Donnelly

When Navarro feels unmoored, he looks at a taped message on his pedalboard: "You get to do this." "I need little reminders for myself of just how much I have to be grateful for," he says in a nimbus of vape smoke. "But I'll tell you one thing: when we do the Above Ground shows, I don't have to read that thing one time. because that transformative magic is happening live on stage."

That magic is about to transpire again. On Dec. 20, Navarro and Morrison will bring their annual Above Ground concert back to Hollywood's Fonda Theater for a third round (they had to skip last year amid the pandemic). The premise is that they corrall famous friends to cover albums in full — this time around, it's Lou Reed's Transformer andthe Sex PistolsNever Mind the Bollocks, with Corey Taylor, Perry Ferrell and more. Purchase tickets here.

Navarro and Morrison caught up with to discuss the origins of Above Ground, the joys of digging into classic LPs in full and the central message of their work: it's OK to ask for help.

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This interview has been edited for clarity.

What can we expect from the third Above Ground concert?

Billy Morrison: Look, Above Ground started like everything Dave and I start — with a conversation on a plane based around our mutual love of Adam and the Ants. We were just larking around, going, "Wouldn't it be cool if we could play that album?

In that same month or six-week period, we lost Chester. We lost…

Dave Navarro: Chris.

Morrison: Chris. And we recently lost Scott Weiland. And Dave has been very, very much a mental health advocate for a long while now, dealing with his own traumas.

Dave Navarro: What are you talking about?

Morrison: What? Your own trauma. The stuff you tweet about!

Navarro: [Scoffs jokingly.] I don't have Twitter! Twitter, that archaic device?

Morrison: You know what I mean!

Navarro: Wasn't that, like, 2007? Anyway, go ahead.

Morrison: He was spearheading mental health awareness. We've both been connected with musicians who also are huge figureheads of mental health and suicide prevention. And it just came: "Why don't we do this annual event where we get the joy of picking two iconic albums that you can't hear [live, in full] anymore?"

The idea is, you go to a concert and you get the top three songs off of each album. And we've been very pure about picking albums and playing the whole thing. Even the strange left-of-center tracks that are often on albums.

That turned into Above Ground one, and Above Ground three is just the natural extension of that minus a year because of COVID.

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Navarro: Billy and I play in a band called Royal Machines, and we also had a band called Camp Freddy. Both bands are essentially the same band. And Royal Machines is a group of musicians who love playing music, who loved the songs they grew up on. 

We play those songs, and we have a special guest per song. We have a different singer every couple of songs, who comes out and does a song with us. Or, a great guitar player comes out and plays.

I think we've been doing that for — what, 20 years?

Morrison: Yeah, 20 years now.

Navarro: So Above Ground was an extension of that, in a way, because we kept the same model of having friends and musicians — players that we would love to reach out to.

Some of them say yes; some of them say no. But we collect as many people that we can find interested in the event and just throw a big celebration of the music that we all loved.

In Royal Machines, it's usually a song or two from a band, but they're hits, because you want to keep the house moving. You want to keep the party moving. So it's hit, hit, hit, hit, hit.

And Billy's right. We were talking about our love for Adam and the Ants' Kings of the Wild Frontier. That's one of the first records that took me a little bit out of the heavy metal genre and into the post-punk genre, if you will. And then I went backward, did my research and that was my conduit to all things goth, all things punk.

Billy being from England and having a huge understanding of the genius of Adam and knowing our shared love of Adam, I called him one day and said, "Wouldn't it be wild to play the entire album with two drummers all the way through and learn every single nuance on that thing?"

We got into it, and it was a mindf*** in terms of what those guys were actually playing and learning those songs and doing them correctly. But we did, we got together, we did that. And we also chose — this is for Above Ground one — The Velvet Underground & Nico. Which was also a monumental album to try and deconstruct and break into and figure out what's going on.

So, apart from the mental health aspect, one of the things we love in addition to raising funds and awareness is having the ability to get into these records and pull them apart and look under the hood. We become better players as a result of it.

Morrison: Oh my god. The tonality of some of the instrumentation on all the albums we've chosen is so left-of-center to where Dave and I both usually are.

When he stands on stage with Jane's Addiction, he sounds like Dave Navarro. And I stand on stage with Billy Idol and I have my Billy Morrison chunk tone. The joy for me is: Dave comes over to my studio and we are listening to guitar tones on little tiny parts that are in the right speaker and going, "OK, you use this guitar through this amp and just do this."

We take recreating in the albums very seriously to the point where, this year, we have a three-piece horn section. We have strings; we have a keyboard player. I mean, we will get whatever we need to do to totally recreate the record.

Which I think, sets [us apart]. No offense to cover bands; I'm in one of the biggest cover bands in the world. But this is more than a cover band.

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Navarro: It's an extension. But it made perfect sense for Billy and me to team up on this because we've been doing covers for so long. The idea of getting into the entire vinyl LP front-to-back is an experience that has been lost in the worldwide culture at this point. We wanted to celebrate that as well.

So that's why we do two albums that are very opposing and contradictory yet fit together very well in the same way. Kind of like a Kubrick film in terms of how we select our albums. So this year you're getting Lou Reed's Transformer and you're getting Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols.

Only the stone classics, it seems!

Navarro: Well, the ones that I think — if I'm being honest, and correct me if I'm wrong — are albums that have shaped who Billy and I are.

Morrison: The process of picking the records is quite a long one, because I'll pick an album that means so much to me, but it doesn't mean that much to Dave. And I'm not going to mention the album, because…

Navarro: You can! No, you can!

Morrison: But then everybody's going to pressure me to actually do it.

Navarro: But you said yes! You said yes!

Morrison: Because I love you!

Navarro: I wanted that experience for you! To me, it was a gift!

Morrison: David is a huge Pink Floyd fan. And part of the Above Ground experience is we bring in way more production than any theater gig should have, including oversized video walls — all kinds of stuff. And Dave said, we need to do The Dark Side of the Moon.

Now, I am not a Pink Floyd fan. I'm just not.


Morrison: So, you've got to remember — one of my first memories is Johnny Rotten walking on stage in a T-shirt that says "I Hate Pink Floyd." And the Sex Pistols are the band that changed my life. And so, even before I ever heard the band as a kid, Pink Floyd was not cool.

Now, I am obviously a grown adult. And Dave is expanding my Pink Floyd dictionary, if you like.

Navarro: We just couldn't get it done by December 20.

Morrison: The deal is not sealed by 2021, but who knows? 2022 might bring that out.

Dave Navarro and Jack Black at Above Ground 2019. Photo: Jim Donnelly

To bridge the conversation into mental health, can you guys tell me about your connections to Scott, Chester and Chris?

Navarro: We both knew all three of those guys just through the work we do.

Morrison: Scott Weiland actually fronted the Camp Freddy band that we had for a year. He was the frontman. Dave, I know, was close with Chris. We were both close with Chester. We had Chester get up with us as one of those guests that Dave was talking about. Chester would always say yes when I or Dave called him. So, we were close.

Navarro: We were very close, and I attended both of those funerals back to back. And what a walloping we all took that year. Chester was always just a constant professional — upbeat, happy to help. Held the door for the catering guy. He was just the humblest, nicest guy. And then when he got on stage, he was just unstoppable.

So, those deaths really hit us hard. Chris's death hit me really, really hard because he and I used to do speaking panels for kids in rehabilitation programs and talk to them about, like, "Hey, we're out here, we're doing this stuff sober on tour and it's doable and we're having a great life."

We were trying to carry that message, because one of the things you've got to do in recovery is to carry the message — whatever type of recovery it is.

Scott, of course, I've known for 20 years, ever since Stone Temple Pilots came out. As Billy said, he was a member of our band for a while. And that was another loss too. They call it drug addiction, but there's something underlying that's underneath drug addiction, if we want to get into it.

So, we felt that since MusiCares was a force and has a reach as vast as it does — they also handle drug addiction and mental health issues — that's the umbrella that we felt that we would want to give back to, to help support people.

MusiCares has gotten people into hospital beds, both Billy and I know, for nothing. People who couldn't afford their own treatment. People who couldn't afford their own care. People who couldn't take care of themselves got taken care of. That's what they do.

Morrison: I think the personal experience that both Dave and I have had with MusiCares made it an easy choice.

Plus, as Dave says, the reach and the voice that they have is definitely a force. I've made a phone call to someone at MusiCares at 10:00, and the person who was dying was in treatment by 6:00. No questions asked, no money.

Those deaths that we talked about — the positive that came out of that for us — was a conversation that was revealed to Dave and me.

Or, it just articulated something that we had thought collectively for a long time about our traumas and our PTSD and depression and addiction issues that we've both been vocal about.

Navarro: Very.

Dave Navarro and Juliette Lewis at Above Ground 2019. Photo: Jim Donnelly

Morrison: What it boils down to is that we have a responsibility to say it's OK to ask for help, because underlying a lot of all of those issues that people suffer from is a stigma that tells us it's wrong to be depressed. Or we don't talk about depression. Or trauma is something that we lock away and don't ever articulate.

Navarro: A lot of family systems teach their children growing up that that's how you live. And I will say, he's right.

I feel like we are at a turning point in society where those issues are being taken seriously. You hear way more about mental health awareness, care, treatment and so forth than you did maybe five years ago. It's become at the forefront. It's a movement of people that just want to see other people having their best human experience.

Both Billy and I have suffered with our drug addictions and so forth. I believe that my drug addiction was rooted in trauma from when I was a kid, and at a certain point for some people like me, it's no more about treating the drug addict side of me.

We've done this; let's get in here. Let's get into the trauma, because that physically lives in the body. That can hold somebody frozen for decades.

Morrison: Dave is right that there is positive forward motion in the mental health space these days. Which is fantastic for us, because it means whatever collective voice we have and we put together for our event is all part of the greater good around the mental health space.

Navarro: I think it's nice for people to see that — sure, it's Billy and I, but there's a lot of artists that join us that people really, really look up to and love and have followed and admired for years. 

Billy Idol is one of them. Perry Farrell is one of them. Taylor Hawkins [was just inducted into] the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame [with Foo Fighters], so we'll have a Hall of Famer up there.

Every one of these names has either been through it, seen it, dealt with it, gone through it or experienced it, lived it like Billy and I have. One of the tenants to the principles that we practice is that you can't keep it unless you give it away.

And we like to give it away in the form of messaging that says, "Look, even the people who you think have it all together and have the ideal life, even they feel like you do." So, let's even the playing field here.

We're just all human beings trying to have a human experience, and everything is OK if we just wait for the next breath and let it be OK.

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Morrison: Dave and I not only play the guitar, but produce the whole thing from start to finish. And the beautiful thing that happens with us is that we'll get a response from someone that neither of us knows.

Jack Black would be an example. The last time we did this, two years ago, Jack Black came forward and wanted to be involved, and was involved — [he] got on stage and absolutely killed it. He didn't do that because he wanted to get on stage and sing "Suffragette City"; he did that because he responded to the message that they just articulated.

So the beautiful thing for us is, we see all those other people out there that want to go, "Yes, we agree with this." Let's level the playing field, like Dave said.

Navarro: You also have to consider that the types of people who choose this line of work for a living are the kinds of people who need a lot of attention. So, there's certainly an undercurrent among all of us that we can all identify with. Most people don't need a thousand people screaming back at them to feel OK about themselves.

So, we come out and we share very intimate, personal stuff in a general way, and on a global level that hopefully can reach somebody who's struggling.

I mean, I had a friend of a family member kill himself two days ago because he got into an argument with somebody. So, obviously, the argument isn't the killer, it's the years of untreated, whatever it was that led to that decision.

I'm seeing it more and more. We saw an increase in drug addiction and suicides during the beginning of the pandemic. And now we're seeing an uptick in both of those things as the world is starting to come back together, because people are having a hard time wrapping their heads around getting back together.

Everybody is built differently, and their trauma lives in different parts of their body. Certain things are a trigger for one person, but they're not a trigger for another person. 

So, we're here to say that not only can you live with those triggers, but you can have a happy and fruitful life with those triggers and not have them hijack your central nervous system and dictate your entire existence.

Dave Mason On Recording With Rock Royalty & Why He Reimagined His Debut Solo Album, Alone Together