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Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, a decade of resentment and silence

The singer has admitted that he has no relationship with the guitarist, with whom he formed the iconic band more than 40 years ago. There may be no enmity, but there is some resentment, because, one day, Sambora ‘didn’t show up for work’

Jon Bon Jovi y Richie Sambora
Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, at the 33rd annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 14, 2018.Jeff Kravitz (FilmMagic)
El País

On April 2, 2013, Jon Bon Jovi received a text message from his guitarist, Richie Sambora, informing him that he wouldn’t be playing that night due to a personal matter.

The band — Bon Jovi — was in the middle of the Because We Can tour. It was just after concert number 35. His absence didn’t sit well at all. Jon Bon Jovi had to deny rumors that the guitarist had been expelled from the group. Sambora — who had a long history of entering and leaving rehab — tried to calm the waters on Twitter: “Thank you everyone for your concern. I’m well, but had to stay in LA to take care of a personal matter. Love you all and see you very soon.”

With 102 remaining performances scheduled in the United States and Europe, the show had to go on. Sambora was replaced by guitarist Phil X that same year in New Jersey, by Jon Bon Jovi. Shortly afterward, Sambora’s departure was officially announced.

There were numerous problems that Sambora could have been dealing with. In 2006, his then-wife — Heather Locklear, the star actress of Melrose Place — asked him for a divorce after 11 years of marriage and the birth of their daughter, Ava. In 2007, his father died of lung cancer. That same year, Sambora entered a rehabilitation clinic. And, the next year, he was arrested for driving while under the influence.

Jon Bon Jovi and Sambora were friends. They had shared three decades of recordings, albums and concerts. The guitarist’s troubles made Jon Bon Jovi feel bad: “There was no fight or money issues, like the reports say. Nobody expected Richie to quit in the middle of the night for no reason. He wasn’t fired; he just didn’t come to work,” the singer explained in an interview with People magazine in 2016. After Sambora left, the relationship was never the same. In fact, even today — despite some reunions of the original members of the band — the relationship is almost non-existent.

At least, that’s what Jon Bon Jovi, 62, recently admitted. In 2024, the singer is celebrating two events: on April 26, Disney+ premieres the docuseries Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story, in which Sambora appears. The band is also turning 40-years-old.

“We’re not in contact because he’s not in the organization any longer,” the rocker told Ultimate Classic Rock. “[That] doesn’t mean that there’s not love forever, but it’s 11 years ago that he just didn’t show up anymore. And there were emotional issues that he was dealing with as a single dad and there were substance abuse issues that, you know… Phil X had to show up one time. And then Phil X had to show up another time. And then, again, there’s a show that night. What are we going to do?”

The singer has also admitted that, although both men appear in the upcoming docuseries, they haven’t worked together, nor have they even exchanged a single word in years. “They interviewed Richie in London. I wasn’t there. I had nothing to do with it. I still haven’t seen the [finished] product.”

Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi in concert in Japan in 1984.
Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi in concert in Japan in 1984.Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music (Getty Images)

Now it’s People magazine that has revealed what happened the night that Sambora was supposed to attend his 36th concert on the tour. A source close to the guitarist told the publication that he “wasn’t at his best.” There were tensions in the band: “Richie had a lot of personal issues. His father died. Heather divorced him.”

The fact that the iconic rock band “never took a break” didn’t help, either. “They never even unpacked their bags,” the source says. “They did this for 30 years,” the same source reveals. “[Richie] didn’t have the spirit” for being in the band anymore. “He needed to be home with his daughter, take care of her and also take care of himself.”

In 2020, in the same magazine, Sambora opened up about this difficult decision and also clarified that he had no regrets: “It wasn’t a popular decision by any means, obviously, but there was really almost no choice about it. I had a lot of conscious work to do around [my personal life]... you know, I ain’t no angel.”

But there’s a new detail that was unknown until now. According to the magazine, some time before starting his last tour, Sambora fell in the shower and broke his shoulder. “Jon was maybe going to cancel the tour. Richie was like, ‘No, I’ll put the guitar over my other shoulder.’” It was a mistake. “[Sambora] got on oxycodone [a strong painkiller from the opioid family] and he played 30 to 35 shows. They brought in $100 million.” But the guitarist got hooked on the painkiller. His addiction became so strong that, at one point, he even thought he had Parkinson’s disease, due to his continuous tremors.

Jon Bon Jovi, Heather Locklear and Richie Sambora in California.
Jon Bon Jovi, Heather Locklear and Richie Sambora in California.Jeff Kravitz (FilmMagic, Inc)

After his departure from Bon Jovi, Sambora felt liberated. He thought it was “amazing” to be able to drop his daughter off at school, pick her up and be there for her “full time.”

“She means everything to him and always has,” the same source reveals. Sambora also maintains a friendship with his ex-wife Heather Locklear.

Currently, the musician resides in Calabasas, one of the most exclusive areas just outside of Los Angeles, which is also home to celebrities such as the Kardashians, Denise Richards (another one of Sambora’s exes) and the Osbournes.

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