Song of the Day: Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi

Wanted Dead or Alive” is a song from Bon Jovi’s 1986 album Slippery When Wet. The song was written by Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora and was released in 1986 as the album’s third single. During a February 20, 2008 encore performance in Detroit Michigan Jon Bon Jovi told the crowd about running into Bob Seger at a Pistons game. As he introduced his song “Wanted Dead or Alive”, he said it was inspired by Seger’s “Turn the Page” hit and called the song the band’s anthem.


It’s all the same, only the names will change
Everyday, it seems we’re wastin’ away
Another place where the faces are so cold
I drive all night just to get back home

I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride
I’m wanted dead or alive
Wanted dead or alive

Sometimes I sleep, sometimes it’s not for days
The people I meet always go their separate ways
Sometimes you tell the day
By the bottle that you drink
And times when you’re all alone all you do is think

I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride
I’m wanted (wanted) dead or alive
Wanted (wanted) dead or alive

Oh, and I ride!


Oh, and I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride
I’m wanted dead or alive

I walk these streets
A loaded six-string on my back
I play for keeps ’cause I might not make it back
I been everywhere, still, I’m standing tall
I’ve seen a million faces
And I’ve rocked them all

I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride
I’m wanted (wanted) dead or alive
I’m a cowboy, I got the night on my side
I’m wanted (wanted) dead or alive
And I ride, dead or alive
I still drive (I still drive) dead or alive
Dead or alive, dead or alive, dead or alive, dead or alive


The song’s title pays homage to Jon’s admiration for Old West heroes, and how he identifies with them as being hated (wanted dead or alive.) During an interview on Inside the Actors Studio, Jon said he got the inspiration for the song early one morning when he could not sleep while riding in a tour bus. The “lifestyle of every rock band” was similar to that of outlaws in that each was, “a young band of thieves, riding into town, stealing the money, the girls, and the booze before the sun came up.”

Jon Bon Jovi said during a concert in Detroit, Michigan, on February 20, 2008, that the song “absolutely positively was influenced by [Bob] Seger’s’Turn the Page.'” Bon Jovi performed “Turn the Page” during a concert in Toronto, Ontario (Canada) on July 21, 2010. Afterward, Jon told the audience he remembered listening to this song in 1985 while traveling on a tour bus in the midwest and telling Richie Sambora, “We got to write a song like this.” The following year the duo composed “Wanted Dead or Alive”.

The album “Slippery When Wet” Bon Jovi’s third album in 1986 with the huge hits “Wanted Dead or Alive”, “Livin on a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name”, are what built the band’s empire.

Promotional use

The song is used as the opening theme for the US broadcasts of the reality series Deadliest Catch.

The song was also featured on the last episode of Season 3, (“No Rest for the Wicked”), on The CW series Supernatural when lead characters Sam Winchester and Dean Winchester sing along as they ride, as well as recently featured on Season 4, Episode 12: A View to a Kill of The Vampire Diaries. It was also heard in the 1991 film Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. The song is heard at the beginning as the main character, Harley Davidson rides his motorbike in the night streets. The song is heard in the scene in Scooby-Doo 2 Monsters Unleashed when Fred is preparing to ride an Indian motorcycle into a jousting battle with the Black Knight. The song is featured in the expansion pack for Grand Theft Auto IV, entitled Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost & Damned on the radio station Liberty Rock Radio. The song was made available to download for use in the Rock Band 3music gaming platform in both Basic rhythm, and PRO mode notable for taking advantage of the integration of a real guitar / bass guitar, and standard MIDI-compatible electronic drum kits / keyboards in addition to three-part harmony or backup vocals.

Music video

The video for the song is black and white and features footage from the band’s massive 1986-1987 world tour, including shots from Chicago’s UIC Pavilion, Rochester, Minnesota’s Mayo Civic Center, Denver, Colorado’s McNichols Arena, Pittsburgh, PA F. Pitt Tunnel and Pittsburgh Skyline, Oklahoma City, and other venues. The video strongly captures the grueling life-on-the-road feeling, with several shots of the exhausted band members. The audio for the video uses the short (edited) version of the song.

In Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet Special Edition, Jon and Richie perform the acoustic version of “Wanted Dead Or Alive” live, and before singing they mention they wrote the song in Richie’s mother’s basement a year ago (1985 or 1986) and Richie’s says “Mom this is for you alright” and Jon jokes and thanks her by saying “Thanks for Richie’s mom for not doing the laundry the day we wrote this song, it’s called Wanted Dead or Alive”. In this version, Richie and Jon take turns singing during the second and the last verse. Unusually, the guitar solo is performed on one of Sambora’s trademark multi-necked 12 string Ovation guitars, rather than switching to an electric guitar for the solo and last verse of the song.


  • Actress Michelle Creber performed a cover of the song for her 2012 album Timeless: Songs of a Century.
  • In 2001, country music duo Montgomery Gentry covered the song for the album Dancin’ With Thunder.
  • Also in 2001, the New York City ska band The Slackers covered the song on their LP release, Wasted Days.
  • Country Singer Chris Cagle covered this song in his 2005 Anywhere But Here album.
  • In 2006, Daughtry covered the song on a bonus edition of their self-titled album.
  • Tom Cruise and Julianne Hough performed a version of the song for the 2012 film Rock of Ages.
  • Covered on season 2 of The X Factor by contestant Tate Stevens during Week 2 of the Live Sh
  • In 2012, I Am I performed a cover of the song during their acoustic set at Bloodstock Open Air Festival.
  • Rapper 2 Chainz sampled this song for his Intro and his song Cowboy from his Mixtape Codeine Cowboy.
  • In 2013, Shinedown will release an acoustic cover of the song.

Bon Jovi

Origin Sayreville, New Jersey
Genres Hard rock, glam metal, soft rock
Years active 1983–present (hiatuses from 1990–1991 and 1997–1999)
Labels Island, Mercury, Mercury Nashville
Members Jon Bon Jovi
David Bryan
Tico Torres
Richie Sambora
Past members Alec John Such
Dave Sabo

image by ~Verehin

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