Bon Jovi’s Top 5 Songs Written with Richie Sambora

Like any rock and roll documentary, Bon Jovi’s four-part Hulu series Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story has plenty of drama.

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Without giving away the ending, the two primary plotlines in Bon Jovi’s current story are the singer’s struggle with his voice and guitarist Richie Sambora’s departure.

Sambora left the New Jersey group in 2013 but briefly reunited for a 2018 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Though the band bears the singer’s name, Bon Jovi’s defining songs result from a kind of Jagger/Richards partnership.

Will he or won’t Sambora return for Bon Jovi’s 40th anniversary tour? Also, Jon Bon Jovi is nine months past surgery to repair his voice, but he acknowledged on a recent SmartLess podcast that he’s still not fully recovered.  

While fans wait for Bon Jovi theater to play out, here’s a list of the group’s top five songs written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora.

“It’s My Life” from Crush (2000)

By the time Bon Jovi released Crush in 2000, five years had passed since their previous studio album. They survived grunge and continued to grow an audience internationally regardless of the changing trends that ended the careers of their contemporaries. Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora collaborated with hit songwriter Max Martin and wrote “It’s My Life,” introducing Bon Jovi to a new generation of fans. Tommy and Gina return with Sambora’s talk box for a variation on an old Bon Jovi theme.  

This ain’t a song for the broken-hearted
No silent prayer for faith-departed
I ain’t gonna be just a face in the crowd
You’re gonna hear my voice when I shout it out loud

“Bad Medicine” from New Jersey (1988)

In 1988, Bon Jovi faced the Herculean task of following up Slippery when Wet, one of the decade’s best-selling albums. Bon Jovi and Sambora reconnected with Desmond Child—who helped craft their biggest hits—to write “Bad Medicine.” Like previous singles written with Child, “Bad Medicine” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Your love is like bad medicine
Bad medicine is what I need, whoa
Shake it up just like bad medicine
There ain’t no doctor that can cure my disease

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

Following two moderately successful albums, Mercury Records gave Bon Jovi one more opportunity with Slippery when Wet. The opening declaration of “You Give Love a Bad Name” sent a shot through the music business, and it seemed like pop culture had shifted. Jon Bon Jovi sang his bad-love anthem with a smile, and the band finally sounded like … Bon Jovi. Sambora developed a signature guitar sound, and he and Jon Bon Jovi became equally iconic. If they had followed the musical path of their first two releases, Bon Jovi might have been another Loverboy. Instead, with Desmond Child, they wrote their first No. 1 single and began a journey toward stadiums and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Shot through the heart
And you’re to blame
Darlin’, you give love a bad name

“Wanted Dead or Alive” from Slippery when Wet (1986)

“Wanted Dead or Alive” is Bon Jovi’s best song. It’s not their biggest song, but undeniably their finest work. With this song, they established they were far superior to the rest of the glam metal and hard rock bands of the time. “Wanted Dead or Alive” was outlaw Americana in the face of Look What the Cat Dragged In and Girls, Girls, Girls. And Sambora’s echoing Wanted! and his burning, Stevie Ray Vaughan-inspired guitar solo is why Bon Jovi fans pray he’ll return.

Sometimes I sleep, sometimes it’s not for days
The people I meet always go their separate ways
Sometimes you tell the day by the bottle that you drink
And times when you’re alone when all you do is think

“Livin’ on a Prayer” from Slippery when Wet (1986)

Bon Jovi’s signature song burned the names Tommy and Gina into pop culture’s consciousness. Because of “Livin’ on a Prayer,” Sambora sent guitarists frantically running to their local Guitar Center for a talk box. The song’s chorus is written exceptionally high, and that’s before the key change. By 2013, Jon Bon Jovi’s vocal folds had had enough. He went under the knife last year to insert a shim inside his throat. It may or may not work, but singing “Livin’ on a Prayer” certainly played a role in the mangled pipes. Still, Bon Jovi’s everyman anthem echoed their Jersey hero Bruce Springsteen and like The Boss, they turned stadiums into church.

Tommy used to work on the docks, union’s been on strike
He’s down on his luck, it’s tough, so tough
Gina works the diner all day, working for her man
She brings home her pay for love, for love

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