Jon Bon Jovi corrects record on Richie Sambora leaving band: He ‘chose not to come back’

Jon Bon Jovi corrects record on Richie Sambora leaving band: He ‘chose not to come back’

The Bon Jovi frontman talks about the guitarist’s abrupt 2013 departure from the band but says there are “no issues” between them today.

Jon Bon Jovi, in black suit and white open-collar shirt, at the U.K. premiere of Disney+ series

Jon Bon Jovi at the U.K. premiere of Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story. (Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)

Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story sets the record straight on Richie Sambora’s abrupt departure from the band — and frontman Jon Bon Jovi says he has “no issues” with the guitarist. In fact, they watched the Hulu series together.

“Just to be clear for history’s sake, there was never any fight. There was never any animus,” Bon Jovi tells Yahoo Entertainment. “He was never fired. It was never about that.”

He continues: “Unfortunately, he had some issues to deal with and chose not to come back. But we were literally on the road,” when Sambora abruptly left the “Because We Can” tour in Calgary in 2013 with 80 sold-out tour dates ahead of them, “and the train kept rolling … he ultimately chose not to want to be on the road with us any longer, and he quit.”

Sambora participates in the project, which looks at the famous New Jersey rock band’s 40-year history of hits. While he comes in hot — the trailer features a bite of Sambora’s sit-down in which he asks, “Are we telling the truth? We gonna lie? What are we gonna do?” — he later apologizes to the fans and his bandmates for how it went down, though he makes it clear it was a necessary choice. The doc explains Sambora had been in and out of rehab leading up to his departure. (Plus, his ex-wife, Heather Locklear, was having “mental health issues,” he said, and their daughter, Ava, “needed me and I needed her.”)

The band famously reunited when they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. That wasn’t a one and done for Bon Jovi and Sambora, who wrote some of the band’s biggest hits (“Livin’ on a Prayer,” “You Give Love a Bad Name”). They’re in touch and watched the three parts of the doc that Sambora appears in together in September. (The fourth part is about rebuilding the band after Sambora’s exit.)

“We sat together very lovingly watching the 30 years that he was in the band transpire,” Bon Jovi says. “There [were] no issues with that.”

 Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi perform with guitars during the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2018.

Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi reunited when Bon Jovi was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. (Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Drummer Tico Torres reminds that beyond the band is a long-spanning friendship.

“[He’s] a person, a good friend,” Torres says of Sambora. “The way I met Richie was I was dating his girlfriend’s mother. I see this kid walk in — I’m sitting on the couch with [the] mom — and he’s trying to sneak in the bedroom,” he recalls as Bon Jovi erupts with laughter. “You’re talking about a bunch of kids that grew up together,” also including Dave Bryan and the late Alec John Such from the original core five. Now, Phil X, John Shanks and Everett Bradley fill out the group.

Gotham Chopra, the director of the project, says it wasn’t as “controversial” as he thought it would be getting Sambora to sit down for the doc.

Jon Bon Jovi And Richie Sambora, with long hair and wearing shades, circa 1983.

Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and the band, formed in 1983, were a “bunch of kids that grew up together.” (Brian Rasic/Getty Images)
“Jon’s the leader of the band,” he says. “With the existing band, if Jon’s in, everybody’s in. Richie is a different case obviously. Very early on I was like: ‘Richie has to be part of this’ and Jon [agreed] 100%. It was pretty simple messaging [to Sambora’s manager]: ‘We’re going to do this. This is going to be what we hope will be the definitive story of the band. You can’t do that without Richie being a part of it.’ I think once Richie understood that, it was OK, cool…. It wasn’t as controversial as I thought it was going to be in terms of getting him.”

Chopra flew to London for the first interview with Sambora, and they met again in Los Angeles a few months later.

“He was everything I had heard: He was gracious and warm and funny and combative and crazy. We had a great time,” he says. “I would say the difficult part was: It’s 40 years of history. So much time has passed. Now you’re filtering all those memories through the lens of emotion — good times, bad times — and trying to find an ‘objective truth,’ which doesn’t really exist. Everybody’s truth is true to them.”

Honorees Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, holding awards, attend the 40th Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremony in 2009.

Bon Jovi and Sambora, who wrote some of the band’s biggest hits, were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2009. (Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall of Fame)
Chopra says he was “not really” surprised by Sambora’s apology to the band in the doc.

“I’ve gotten to know him … he’s proud,” says Chopra. “The more I talked to him, I understood: There are layers to this. There was maybe a culminating event in terms of the night it happened and some of the circumstances, but it had been building. Part of it was to do with the band, the relationships and 30 years of — I think Tico described it as — a ‘five-way marriage.’ There’s that but also a lot of stuff personally going on with Richie, his [ex-wife], his young daughter. It was a confluence of events.”

He continues: “I do think he regretted the way it went down — those were his brothers — but he did not regret that it happened because he felt it was destined to happen. A lot of people have said that: ‘Man, the fact that it lasted 30 years [is] pretty crazy.’”

A silver lining to the project is that it has helped communication with the former bandmates, Chopra says.

“Jon and Richie still correspond. They talk. I think they’ve become a little bit closer … during the course of this,” he says.

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