Jon Bon Jovi faces tough decision: Get vocal surgery or retire, after ‘devastating’ conversation with wife

Bon Jovi opens up about his 35-year marriage with his wife Dorothea — and how she helped him through his vocal cord issues — in this week’s PEOPLE cover story

Jon Bon Jovi is looking back on the conversation with his wife that led him to addressing his vocal cord issues.

After years of struggling in silence, the Bon Jovi frontman, 62, opens up about his strained voice — and the toll it took on him — in the band’s new Hulu docuseries, Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story (streaming Friday, April 26).

The beloved rock icon had been facing issues for at least seven seven years when was on the road for the band’s most recent tour in 2022. During an arena show in Nashville, “I gave my heart to that crowd,” he tells PEOPLE. “I thought it went well.”

Jon Bon Jovi performs

Jon Bon Jovi performing in New York City in June 2021.JAMIE MCCARTHY/GETTY

But his wife Dorothea, 61, whom he wed in 1989, gave him tough love, telling him, “It wasn’t great, and I’ve seen you be great.”

The conversation was “beyond heartbreaking, it was devastating,” he says, “but there’s no one better than her to tell me the truth.”

Adds Bon Jovi: “If it were going to be over, I just had to wrap my arms around that and say, ‘I’ve had an incredible career. It doesn’t mean I can’t write you a song tomorrow, just means I won’t be doing a hundred-show tour.’”

Dorothea Bongiovi and Jon Bon Jovi

Dorothea Bongiovi and Jon Bon Jovi in London on April 17, 2024.JEFF SPICER/GETTY

Bon Jovi then had to face the music: seek help or retire: “I went to the doctor and said, ‘I’ve done everything I know how to do.’”

In the summer of 2022, he underwent vocal fold medialization surgery, to alleviate loose vocal folds that were stealing his voice and affecting his singing.

Nearly two years since the procedure, Bon Jovi works with vocal coaches and does daily voice exercises: “Every day is the recovery process,” he says.

Following the release of their new single “Legendary,” the band will drop its 16th album, Forever, in June. Recorded post-operation, Bon Jovi’s vocals may sound smokier and huskier but are no doubt his. The possibility of future tours with the band remains up in the air, though.

“I’m capable of singing. What I’m not necessarily capable of is two and a half hours a night, four nights a week,” Bon Jovi says, “but I’m aspiring to get that back.”

Founding drummer Tico Torres says that following the surgery, Bon Jovi is “singing his ass off,” adding: “He’s hitting notes he hasn’t hit since he was a kid. We’re proud of him.”

And the ordeal has also led Bon Jovi to a new outlook on life.

Jon Bon Jovi shot in NYC by Jake Chessum on March 26, 2024.

Jon Bon Jovi in NYC in March 2024.JAKE CHESSUM

“The thing that gave me so much pleasure had been taken away,” he says. “Joy is something you got to work at, right? Happiness is what you make it. It’s not about seizing the day anymore. I think it’s about embracing the day. I don’t have to punch it in the face anymore, now I just give it a hug, and that’s a good place to be.”

He’s channeling that spirit into Forever (out June 7), which “is really about my finding joy again,” says Bon Jovi. “What really matters in a life? It’s love and loyalty and finding things that make you want to get up out of bed in the morning.”

Jon Bon Jovi shot in NYC by Jake Chessum on March 26, 2024.

Jon Bon Jovi on the May 6, 2024 cover of PEOPLE.JAKE CHESSUM

In a 2020 PEOPLE cover story, Bon Jovi and wife Dorothea — who was his high school sweetheart — opened up about their lasting love story, which he he attributed to “mutual respect” at the time, adding: “And we really like each other. We want to hang out … We work hard at it, but we enjoy each other and we never fell for the trappings of what celebrity can do. We’ve witnessed that happen over the years to people that were close to us and people that we knew from afar. It’s just what I do, it’s not who I am. I write songs. I happen to be very good at performing them. That’s it.”

At the time, Dorothea added: “It’s a partnership.”

For more on Jon Bon Jovi, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.

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