American Reckoning

Album: Bon Jovi: 2020 (2020)

Songfacts®:

  • This Jon Bon Jovi-written song offers a powerful look at the killing of African-American George Floyd and the ensuing outrage and protests.
  • On May 25, 2020, 46-year-old George Floyd was arrested in Minneapolis for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. A white police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd's neck for over eight minutes while handcuffing him. Jon Bon Jovi kicks off the song by referencing the Black Lives Matter protests, sparked by Floyd's death, and his last words: "I can't breathe."

    America's on fire
    There's protests in the street
    Her conscience has been looted
    And her soul is under siege
    Another mother's crying
    As history repeats
    I can't breathe


    One minute in, Bon Jovi offers a description of George Floyd's death.

    God damn those eight long minutes
    Lying face-down in cuffs on the ground
    Bystanders pleaded for mercy
    As one cop shoved a kid in the crowd


    "I was moved to write 'American Reckoning' as a witness to history." said Jon Bon Jovi. "I believe the greatest gift of an artist is the ability to use their voice to speak to issues that move us."
  • This was released as the third single from Bon Jovi 2020, a record where the group takes a more socially conscious approach. Other topics they cover on the album include soldiers who have PTSD, the 2019 Dayton shooting, and the struggles that migrants face.
  • Jon Bon Jovi watched the news coverage of George Floyd's killing in disbelief. "I couldn't believe that this was in close-up, on film, with the audio, as a big, strong man cried out for his mom with his dying breaths," he told UK newspaper The Sun. "If that didn't move you as a human, I question who you are and where is your soul?"

    Bon Jovi felt crushed watching the tragedy unfold, so he started scribbling lines in his notebook. "I was very careful with the song to make sure that I got it right, and I wanted to say something from my heart, " he said. "But I had to be very aware of what I was singing because I realized that I'm probably the poster boy of white privilege. I'm old, I'm white, I'm wealthy and I'm a celebrity, so the chances of a run-in with the police are slim."

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