Released this past Friday, 2020 is a 13-track ode to humanity’s current state as well as a timeless body of work embodying the larger emotions of a tumultuous time. Baltin had exclusive access to the brain behind the album as he questioned Bon Jovi on his many inspirations and songwriting practices.
Here’s a sneak peek of what transpired in this behind the podcast mic.
“As events started to unfold and I started to write more, I thought, ‘I’m gonna take the position as a witness to history, nothing more. As though I was an unbiased journalist or I was the voyeur.’” said Bon Jovi. “I didn’t want to make it about me. And so that kind of, ‘Let’s write a love song, let’s write a buddy song,’ really didn’t have much appeal. And as I started down this road I got more and more excited that I had clarity behind the album title 2020.”
“Now it was a moment in time and yes I was witness to history. ‘American Reckoning’ would’ve been the last song written for the record, which was right after the passing of George Floyd (May 25). But ‘Lower The Flag’ was written last summer. I really looked forward to this interview because of the songwriting aspect.”
In addition to Bon Jovi’s own creative body of work, he curated a specific playlist on People Have The Power that further exemplifies his inclination towards social justice. His top three picks were “For What It’s Worth,” “A Change Is Gonna Come” and ‘Times They Are A-Changing.”
“My songs are not protest songs, but songs of social observation because like I said, I’m just trying to bear witness to history. But in the case of my being the fanboy again, I did think about this a little bit today. ‘A Change Is Gonna Come,’ Sam Cooke, one of the great songs ever. And I had the opportunity to sing it at Obama’s inauguration. And I sang it with Bettye LaVette. And the general public may not know who Bettye LaVette is. She didn’t have the hits that the Supremes had, or Martha And The Vandellas, all the girl bands, Ronnie Spector. But, boy could she sing. And when we did that song on the steps of the monument in front of a brand new president named Barack Obama I saw in her eyes all of the history of her and those who came before her. And I’ll carry that memory with me forever.”
“‘For What It’s Worth’ is something I used as a benchmark for this record with ‘Lower The Flag’ and ‘American Reckoning.’ And then, of course, Dylan’s ‘Times They Are A-Changin’.’”
This triad of social observation songs clearly left an impression on Bon Jovi and their influences can be subtlety heard in the undertones of 2020. Bon Jovi also pointed out to Baltin a particularly prophetic song of his own in the form of 2020‘s “Blood In The Water.”
“That song, to me, is a prophecy, it’s timeless,” said Bon Jovi.
And on a lighter, more jovial note, this rock genius described his friendship with another titan in the industry — Paul McCartney.
“I have the absolute incredible, heaven-sent gift to actually be able to say I’m friendly with Paul McCartney. And I get to spend a lot of time with him in the summers. And I jokingly tell him that John and George just went back to their planet. I refer to him as Beatle Paul all the time. Wherever I’m at with him it’s ‘Hey, Beatle Paul, hey Beatle Paul.’ And one night he actually said to me, ‘Why do you do that?’ And I said, ‘Because I’m too old to call you Mr. McCartney and I’m too in awe to think that I could call you Paul. I’m too reverent.’ And he’s like, ‘Okay.’”
Listen to 2020‘s “Do What You Can” below and find out more about the People Have The Power podcast here.
Photo Credit: Clay McBride