After 4 Decades in Music and Major Vocal Surgery, Jon Bon Jovi Is Optimistic and Still Rocking 

Jon Bon Jovi poses for a portrait in New York on Sept. 23, 2020 to promote his new album "2020". (AP)
Jon Bon Jovi poses for a portrait in New York on Sept. 23, 2020 to promote his new album "2020". (AP)

After 4 Decades in Music and Major Vocal Surgery, Jon Bon Jovi Is Optimistic and Still Rocking 

Jon Bon Jovi poses for a portrait in New York on Sept. 23, 2020 to promote his new album "2020". (AP)
Jon Bon Jovi poses for a portrait in New York on Sept. 23, 2020 to promote his new album "2020". (AP)

When Jon Bon Jovi agreed to let director Gotham Chopra follow him with a documentary camera to delve into the history of his band, Bon Jovi, he didn't anticipate it would catch him at a major low point in his career.

The band was launching a tour, and despite doing all he could do to be vocally ready, the “Livin' on a Prayer” singer struggled through songs and couldn't hit the notes the way he used to.

Critics noticed and wrote about it. A review from Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minnesota, said: “It felt like he had forgotten how to sing.”

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Bon Jovi said the reaction at the time was “heartbreaking." After exhausting holistic options, he saw a doctor who said one of his vocal cords was atrophying.

“This was unique. It wasn't a nodule. The strong (vocal cord) was pushing the weak one around, and suddenly, my inabilities were just exacerbated," said Bon Jovi. He underwent major surgery and is still recovering.

“Every day is sort of like doing curls with weights and just getting them both to be the same size and to function together.”

This year has been a turning point. In February, he performed for an audience for the first time since his surgery at the MusiCares Person of the Year benefit gala where he was also named Person of The Year. The band's next album, “Forever” hits stores June 7, and its first single “Legendary” is out now. The four-part, “Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story,” debuts Friday on Hulu.

In a Q&A, Bon Jovi talks about his voice, his famous hair, the music industry and his work ethic.

Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

AP: The work you put in behind-the-scenes is like a quarterback in between football games. Are you still rehearsing at that intensity, and how are you now?

BON JOVI: I’m doing great. The record was easy to do. The process has been steady. Would I like it to be a light switch? Yeah. I said to the doctor, 'I want to flip the switch and be done with this.’ It’s just not how it works. Like an athlete coming back from an ACL tear or whatever, it just takes time. The therapy is still intensive and yet I’m confident that it gets progressively better.

AP: We learn in the docuseries that your father was a barber. You've always been known for having good hair, especially in the 1980's. Does that come from your dad?

BON JOVI: Not in as much where he sat down and said, “I’ve got this idea.” Really, I was a byproduct of what was the 80s. Those were my baby pictures. I love laughing at them. Now, I can jokingly at least say, “After 40 years of a career, I still have all my hair.” That is a good thing. Genetics works in my favor.

AP: Do you ever think about acting again?

BON JOVI: I do, on occasion. My day job then comes back to get in the way. In truth, I've got a big record coming out, and I’m hoping to go out on the road, so I don’t have time for it. And I respect the craft far too much to think I’m going to walk on a set and hit my marks and call that acting.

AP: Your work ethic stands out in “Thank You, Goodnight.” We see in the early days you would sleep at the music studio. Where does that come from?

BON JOVI: If you’re not going to be great, the guy that’s coming in tomorrow night is going to be better. This isn’t a career that you should take lightly. There’s a million other young guys that are waiting to take your spot. And there are no guarantees in this business...You have to win hearts in order to win people's hard-earned dollar. If you’re asking them to stay with you for four decades, that’s a task. You better be one of the greats or else good luck.

AP: Richie Sambora is interviewed in the series. The fans love seeing him. Do you think you will ever perform together again?

BON JOVI: We never had a big falling out. He quit 10 years ago. It’s not that we’re not in contact or anything like that, but he was choosing to, as a single dad, raise his child. The door is always open if he wants to come up and sing a song. I mean, there’s many of them that we co-wrote together. That's a great part of both of our lives. There’s no animosity here.

AP: A lot of musicians are selling their music catalog. Would you?

BON JOVI: For some, it makes sense because they need to. For some, it makes sense because they want to. I just find (Bon Jovi's music) to be my baby, and I have no desire at this juncture in my life to ever even consider it.

AP: You're one of New Jersey's favorite sons like Bruce Springsteen. It's a point of pride for New Jersey residents that you're from there, but you moved to Florida?

BON JOVI: Part-time! My license is still New Jersey. I still vote in New Jersey.

AP: The music industry is such a singles market now. Did you ever consider just putting out some new songs and not an entire album?

BON JOVI: See, I’m the opposite. I can only put out an album. I do all I know how to do. I have to tell the complete story. It has to be the beginning, a middle and an end because that's who and what we are.

AP: How do you describe the new album?

BON JOVI: What comes through is joy. My goal with this record was to capture joy which for these last few years has been difficult, whether it’s the dark cloud of COVID that the world experienced or my own personal journey. With this record, I think we captured joy.

Review: ‘Robot Dreams’ Is More Profound Than It Has Any Right to Be 

This image released by Neon shows a scene from the animated film "Robot Dreams." (Neon via AP)
This image released by Neon shows a scene from the animated film "Robot Dreams." (Neon via AP)

Review: ‘Robot Dreams’ Is More Profound Than It Has Any Right to Be 

This image released by Neon shows a scene from the animated film "Robot Dreams." (Neon via AP)
This image released by Neon shows a scene from the animated film "Robot Dreams." (Neon via AP)

It’s one of those strange but immutable truths of the movies that a song like Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” can play in roughly a thousand films before a movie about a dog and a robot comes along and blows them all out of the water.

The animated “Robot Dreams” is wordless, so the songs play an outsized influence in conjuring its whimsical and gently existential tone. But Pablo Berger’s “Robot Dreams,” a 1980s New York-set fable about loved ones who come and go, doesn’t just use “September” for a scene or even two. It’s the soundtrack to the friendship between Dog and Robot (yes, those are the protagonists’ names in this disarmingly simple film), and its melody returns in various forms whenever they’re reminded of each other.

To a remarkable degree, “Robot Dreams” has fully imbibed all the melancholy and joy of Earth, Wind & Fire’s disco classic. Just as the song asks “Do you remember?” so too does “Robot Dreams,” a sweetly wistful little movie that, like a good pop song, expresses something profound without wasting a word.

Remembering is also helpful when it comes to the film, itself. I first saw “Robot Dreams” over a year ago at the Cannes Film Festival. Its release comes months after “Robot Dreams” was Oscar nominated for best animated film. But for whatever reason, the film is only arriving in North American theaters this Friday.

It’s an unconventional release pattern for an unconventional film. “Robot Dreams,” adapted from Sara Varon’s 2007 graphic novel, is likewise an all-ages movie in a curious way. It’s very much for kids, but it’s also so mature in its depictions of relationships that older generations may swoon hardest for it.

“Robot Dreams” begins in the East Village where Dog lives a rather lonely life. Before he sits down to eat a microwave dinner, he notices his solitary reflection in the TV screen. An ad, though, sparks Dog to order the Amica 2000. A few days later, a box arrives, Dog assembles its contents and soon a friendly robot is smiling back at him.

Together, they have a grand old time around a New York colorfully rendered with pointillist detail. They jump the subway turnstiles, visit Woolworths and rollerblade in Central Park (with “September” playing on the boombox). But after an outing to Playland (which looks much more like Coney Island), Robot’s enthusiasm gets him into some trouble. After frolicking in the water, he lies down on the beach and later finds he can’t move. This may be a movie about a Dog who rollerblades and a Robot who eats hot dogs, but the scientific reality of rust is one suspense of disbelief too far for “Robot Dreams.”

Despite all of Dog’s efforts, Robot is stuck, and, this being September, the beach is soon closed for the off-season. Much of “Robot Dreams” passes through the seasons while Robot dreamily sleeps through the winter and Dog is forced to go on with his life, and maybe try to meet someone new.

The dreams of each can be surreal; Dog has a bowling alley visit with a snowman who bowls his own head, while Robot imagines a “Wizard of Oz”-like fantasy. But both are consumed by fears of their friend’s abandonment while progressively finding new experiences and friends. New characters enter, with their own New Yorks (kite-flying in the park, rooftop barbeques) and their own soundtracks. “Robot Dreams” movingly turns into a story about moving on while still cherishing the good times you once shared with someone — a valuable lesson to young and old, in friendship and romance.

And even this sense of memory runs deeper in “Robot Dreams” than you might be prepared for. Berger, the Spanish filmmaker whose movies include the 2012 black-and-white silent “Blancanieves,” has filled his movie with countless bits of a bygone past, from Atari to Tab soda. The name Amica 2000 could be a pun for the Amiga 500, the early computer and harbinger of our digital present. Even more dramatic, though, is the way the Twin Towers often loom in the background in a film so connected to the month of September. There, too, is a poignant symbol of companions, friends and family members who vanished, but whose memories still stir within us.

This is, you might be thinking, a lot for a cartoon about a dog and a robot to evoke. And yet “Robot Dreams” does so, beautifully. And it will leave you curiously lifted by the spirit and lyrics of one of the most-played wedding songs of all time: “Only blue talk and love, remember/ The true love we share today.”