World tours are canceled, album releases are delayed, and the music industry has all but shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, but rock icon Jon Bon Jovi still has plenty of work on his plate. Literally. The legendary entertainer returned to the Stern Show on Wednesday and revealed he and his wife Dorothea Hurley are scrubbing dishes full-time at JBJ Soul Kitchen, a restaurant his charitable organization founded which provides healthy, locally sourced food for families in need.
“Five days a week I’m still the dishwasher at the Soul Kitchen,” Jon told Howard.
Howard and co-host Robin Quivers were amazed he’d risk his own wellbeing to venture out into the world during a quarantine to help struggling families. “It’s a beautiful thing,” Howard said.
As Jon sees it, his foundation’s efforts are more vital than ever these days. “The in-need still need to eat, especially now. They don’t have a place like the local [YMCA] to go to the showers, they don’t have other restaurants giving them lunch and breakfast,” he said.
The Bon Jovi frontman and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is “scared to death” by the prospect of catching the virus, but he and his wife take every measure they can to reduce their chances of getting infected. “For what it’s worth, I probably have the cleanest hands in the New Jersey because they’re in the sink the entire time I’m there,” he laughed.
Jon connected via Zoom from his N.J. home where he’s spending all his time when he’s not out washing pots and pans. Howard wondered how he and his family were holding up during the quarantine.
“I’m good. I’m watching the world around us. It’s crazy isn’t it? This is like a bad science fiction movie,” Jon said. The pandemic has been hard for his children, he explained, with one teenage son wondering if he’ll ever return to high school and another struggling to wrap his head around the fact his graduation and prom have been canceled.
“We were talking about it yesterday. What if his freshman year of college is spent here in online courses?” he said. “It’s all very daunting, but you can’t get into the darkness right now.”
Classes and dances aren’t the only things getting canceled, of course. Large gatherings of every sort, including concerts, are now verboten. Considering Bon Jovi had just last year sold out arenas and stadiums across the globe, Howard wondered if his guest had any thoughts on when touring might pick up again.
“We may never tour. This could be the end of touring, who knows?” Jon said, adding, “I’ve read these articles that ‘20 is out of the question, ‘21 is possibly out of the question. So, in ’22 when they tell you that you can’t play 50,000 people anymore, do you go, ‘Oh well, I can’t tour the way we used to’?”
Further complicating matters is the fact Bon Jovi keyboard player David Bryan tested positive for coronavirus in March. Howard hoped to get a health update about the musician, who has visited the show multiple times in the past and even joined the Wrap Up Show in 2018 ahead of the band’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
“He’s doing better … He sounds much better. I was really concerned a month ago,” Jon said, adding, “He’s been a month-plus and he’s not 100 percent. He’s well on the road to recovery, but he had it pretty bad.”
Touring may be a thing of the past, but Jon still plans to perform for his fans from the comforts of his home. On April 22, he will co-headline “Jersey for Jersey,” a digital concert event helping to raise money for the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund. The benefit will feature a wide swath of regional musicians, including Jon, Bruce Springsteen, Tony Bennett, Halsey, and SZA, as well as an array of entertainers like Chris Rock, Danny DeVito, Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Stewart, and Chelsea Handler.
“It’s a once in a lifetime [event]. It’s for Jersey, by Jersey … it’s all acoustic, everybody by themselves at home,” Jon said, adding, “Everybody wanted to be a part of it.”
The star-studded telethon will run only an hour long, but he hopes to perform at least two tracks during his set, including “Do What You Can,” a tune he wrote because of the pandemic. “I’m going to perform that in its entirety for the first time ever and of course I should do ‘Living on a Prayer’ because it’s such an important song for so many people and it brings us back to happier days,” he explained.
During the course of their conversation, Howard noticed his guest was flanked by some movie and sports memorabilia on the walls behind him. At one point, Jon showed off a few of his favorite items, including a game-worn hoodie given to him by New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The rocker’s love for football is well known. He’s owned an arena league team in the past and once attempted to buy the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.
“My passion for the game and the business of the game was second to, you know, playing music,” he said.
Howard had a question, though—how could someone synonymous with the state of New Jersey root for a team from New England?
“My guys were there,” Jon said, explaining he first became friends with Coach Belichick in the late 1980s and has since developed personal relationships with everyone from Patriots owner Robert Kraft to its former star quarterback Tom Brady, who left the team for Tampa Bay this past offseason.
“I’ve been a fan there so long that Brady was a back-up quarterback when I was a fan,” he added.
While on the subject of football, Howard was curious why Bon Jovi—one of the world’s most successful rock bands—hadn’t ever put on a Super Bowl halftime performance.
“No desire,” Jon revealed. “I turned it down many years ago.”
“Why?” Howard wondered.
“I didn’t like that you had to team up with other people and you had these people coming on your stage … and then the pressure’s on,” he said. “It didn’t appeal to me to play at the New Jersey one [in 2014], it seemed too obvious. The last time, honest to God, that we were at all interested was back [in 2011] when they had it in Dallas—and we didn’t get it.”
While Jon had no intention of taking the halftime stage any time soon, he admitted the trajectory of his singing career has still been influenced by his love of the game. He said Brady—who opened up to Howard last week about his renowned work ethic—along with Tony Bennett inspire him to work hard every single day at becoming a better singer.
“I say, ‘Well, would Tom be working out today? Yeah? Well, I guess I better [practice].’ If you’re gonna work at this and continue to do it at this level, you gotta put the time in,” he explained.
All that vocal training has come in handy, too. At 58 years old, the rock star said screaming into a microphone every night is much harder than it was when he was in his 20s and 30s. Thanks to decades of practice with a vocal coach referred to him by E Street Band member and “Sopranos” star Steven Van Zandt, however, Jon’s voice has held up quite well.
“[My voice] is stronger than it ever was. Now it’s just a matter of getting out there and having the ability to use it ever again,” he said.
Jon did put his musical skills on display for both Howard and Beth last year when they invited him and his wife to spend a weekend at their home. As a birthday present of sorts, Jon used one of Howard’s own guitars to play him “The Story of Love,” a tune off his band’s forthcoming album “Bon Jovi: 2020.”
“It was a great moment. I’ll never forget it,” Howard said. “It was so special for you to do something like that.”
The album was set to arrive in mid-May until the coronavirus pandemic came and threw the record release schedules into complete disarray. While Bon Jovi fans must wait a little bit longer for the album to drop, Jon told Howard he’d already given Springsteen and Tuesday’s Stern Show guest Sir Paul McCartney an early listen. Howard was impressed how even someone of his stature could get two of rock’s greatest living songwriters to give him feedback on his material. In McCartney’s case, Jon said the credit belonged to someone else.
“My wife set it up, what she said was a play date,” he said, explaining Dorothea and Paul’s wife Nancy are extremely close friends. “Paul shows up by himself. We sit on the couch and I play him a bunch of songs from the forthcoming record.”
Howard wondered what kind of notes superstars typically give each other in situations like those. “Do you think he could be totally honest with you?” he asked.
Jon thought so. “I’ve been in the position where I’ve listened to people’s records, too, and you’re going to find something good even if you think you can do something different. But I think there was kind of that mutual respect or he wouldn’t have come over to my house to hear it anyhow,” he said.
While on the subject, Howard asked about Jon’s penchant for referring to the rock legend as “Beatle Paul.” Jon said Paul asked him the same question somewhat recently when the two attended an Eagles concert.
“He said, ‘Why do you call me Beatle Paul?’” Jon recalled. “I said, ‘Because I’m too old to call you Mr. McCartney and I’m too in reverence to dare think that we’re that close that I call you Paul. So, I said, ‘Would you like your majesty or Beatle Paul?’”
“He’s a Beatle for God’s sake and he’s also one of the sweetest guys you’ve ever met in your life,” he continued. “So, for me, it’s Beatle Paul.”
Before saying goodbye to Howard and Robin, the entertainer, philanthropist, and longtime friend of the Stern Show offered up a few kind words for everyone struggling amid the pandemic. “I hope all your listeners are taking good care of themselves and know that their contribution is just to be patient and stay home—listen to Howard—because truthfully that’s the only way we’re ever going to get back to normal,” Jon said.
“Jersey for Jersey” will air at 7 p.m. ET on April 22 on SiriusXM and ABC.