2 Bon Jovi Hits and 1 Deep Cut Cribbed from Other Songs

New Jersey rock superstars Bon Jovi have broken the unspoken rule of old-school rock bands—they often collaborate with outside songwriters. For many rock fans, it’s not considered a cool thing to do because you’re supposed to write your own material. But they were not alone in working with outside collaborators back in the 1980s and ‘90s, and it’s a practice that has since become more common. Not that Bon Jovi fans ever cared. Many didn’t know and just loved their hits.

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There’s no denying Bon Jovi released some of the biggest hits of the ‘80s and have proven their longevity, even being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Three of their songs, however, really bear a very strong resemblance to other people’s hits. That’s because the co-songwriters of the following Bon Jovi tracks are the ones who co-wrote the originals. Here’s a breakdown of the three soundalikes.

“You Give Love a Bad Name” from Slippery When Wet (1986)

When Desmond Child sat down with Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora for the first time to see if and how they could work together, the band really needed a hit. Their first Top-40 track “Runaway” had mainly been written by George Karak and recorded by Jon Bon Jovi with session musicians before the band had even landed a deal. But the group had since struggled to come up with anything like that song, with three other singles missing the Top 40.

Child had recently written a song for Bonnie Tyler called “If You Were a Woman (And I Was a Man)” that had flopped here but shot to No. 6 in France and reportedly sold 250,000 copies there. But no one here knew that. As he has stated in interviews sicne then, Child was unhappy the Tyler track was poorly promoted in America, so he rewrote it with Bon Jovi and Sambora, porting over the verse rhythm and glorious chorus and turning “You Give Love A Bad Name” into the Jersey band’s first bona fide hit. It still only made it to No. 33 in America, but it rose to No. 9 on the Mainstream Rock radio chart along with receiving huge MTV exposure, a newer factor back then that often surpassed radio influence. The Bon Jovi-Sambora-Child songwriting triumvirate would go on to write other major hits including “Bad Medicine,” “Born to Be My Baby,” and their eternally popular hit “Livin’ on a Prayer”.

“Hearts Breaking Even” from These Days (1995)

This deeper cut from These Days is not a totally direct rip from Aerosmith, but melodic and rhythmic ideas from “Cryin’” and “Crazy,” both smash hits for the bad boys from Boston, make their way into this Bon Jovi track. Child actually co-wrote the latter song with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. Aerosmith scored big with ballads in the mid-1990s. Bon Jovi did too, with “Bed of Roses” (No. 10) and “Always” (No. 4), so it feels like they wanted to keep that streak going. However, “Hearts Breaking Even” was not released as a single. “This Ain’t a Love Song,” another Aerosmith-like Bon Jovi cut on These Days written without Child’s input, did get to No. 14.

“It’s My Life” from Crush (2000)

In 2000, Bon Jovi were desperate to score another big hit. The band had been on hiatus since mid-1996 and could barely get arrested here, even as their international audience had grown. They reportedly struggled to find an opening act to tour their upcoming album Crush because many people thought they were over. But that release launched their big comeback and returned them to mainstream prominence. It also prefaced a string of hit albums throughout the 2000s. They just needed that one track to really break them big again—of course, that was “It’s My Life.” You might recall the crazy video in which a young man dangerously races through traffic to meet his girlfriend in a tunnel where Bon Jovi is performing.

Lyrically, the song paid homage the characters of Tommy and Gina from “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Musically, it pulled from a Backstreet Boys pop confection called “Larger than Life,” which is not surprising since both were co-written by Swedish music producer/manufacturer Max Martin. While the two songs are not exactly the same they are fairly close—similar chords, vocal sound effects (Sambora’s talk box in Bon Jovi’s version), and similar rhythms. Someone overlaid the two tunes on YouTube as a mash-up, and it works pretty well.

The reception to the two songs was different—the BSB original went to No. 25 in the U.S. and sold roughly 500,000 copies worldwide. The Bon Jovi version hit No. 33 here but reportedly sold over 4 million units globally and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 2001. “Larger than Life” has 120 million views on YouTube and 194 million plays on Spotify, whereas “It’s My Life” has nearly 1.4 billion views on YouTube and 864 million plays on Spotify. The rocked-up rendition has had a larger life.

David Bowie once said, “It’s not who does it first, it’s who does it second,” as originators often do not get credit for starting something or being there first. The situation here is different, of course, but the Backstreet Boys can find solace knowing that while Bon Jovi’s Crush album went Double Platinum in America, their Millenium album sold 13 million copies. They crushed it.

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