Born: 1959, Kingston, ON
Genre: Pop, Rock
– 2 Diamond Albums (1 million copies sold in Canada)
– 1st Canadian artist to score a Diamond album (1985): Reckless
– 18 Juno Awards including Male Artist of the Year 7 times and Album of the Year twice
– Star on Canada’s Walk of Fame (1998)
– Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (2011)
– Inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame (2006)
– 37 Top 40 Singles, including 18 Top 10, 9 of which were #1
– 2nd Canadian artist in history to have a #1 album in Britain
“(Everything I Do) I Do It for You“ (1991)
– #1 Hit in 30 countries including Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.
– #1 Song of the Year in the U.S. Billboard Chart, Canadian RPM chart, and UK Singles chart
– Spent 16 weeks at #1 on the UK Singles Chart – a British chart record
– Became the 2nd best-selling single of all-time in the U.S.
– Written for the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
– Best Song Written for a Motion Picture Grammy Award winner
Studio Albums and Hit Singles
1980: Bryan Adams
1981: You Want It You Got It
– Certified Gold
– Hit Singles: “Fits Ya Good” (#30)
1983: Cuts Like a Knife
– #8 in both Canada and the U.S.
– Certified 3x Platinum
– Hit Singles: “Straight from the Heart” (#20 CAN; #10 U.S.), “Cuts Like a Knife” (#12 CAN; #15 U.S.), “This Time” (#32 CAN; #24 U.S.)
– #1 in both Canada and the U.S.
– Certified Diamond
– Hit Singles: “Run to You” (#4 CAN; #6 U.S.), “Summer of ’69” (#11 CAN; #4 Netherlands), “Heaven” (#11 CAN; #1 U.S.), “Somebody” (#13 CAN; #11 U.S.), “One Night Love Affair” (#19 CAN; #13 U.S.), “It’s Only Love” (-with Tina Turner- #14 CAN; #15 U.S.)
1987: Into the Fire
– #2 in Canada; #3 in Sweden
– Certified 3x Platinum
– Hit Singles: “Heat of the Night” (#7 CAN; #5 Norway), “Hearts on Fire” (#25 CAN; #26 U.S.), “Victim of Love” (#32 U.S.)
1991: Waking Up the Neighbours
– #1 in many countries around the world including Canada, the U.K., and Germany
– Certified Diamond
– 2nd album from a Canadian artist to top the British charts
– 16 million copies sold worldwide
– Hit Singles: “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” (#1 in 30 countries around the world), “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started” (#1 CAN; #2 U.S.), “There Will Never Be Another Tonight” (#2 CAN; #11 Ireland), “Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven” (#1 CAN; #8 U.K.), “All I Want Is You” (#20 Ireland; #22 U.K.), “Do I Have to Say the Words?” (#2 CAN; #11 U.S.), “Touch the Hand” (#37 CAN)
1996: 18 til I Die
– #4 in Canada; #1 in the U.K.
– Certified 3x Platinum
– Hit Singles: “The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You” (#4 CAN; #5 U.K.), “Let’s Make a Night to Remember” (#1 CAN; #9 U.K.), “I’ll Always Be Right There” (#14 CAN), “Star” (#12 U.K.), “18 til I Die” (#21 CAN and U.K.), “Do To You” (#6 CAN)
1998: On a Day Like Today
– #3 in Canada; #2 in Switzerland
– Certified 2x Platinum
– Hit Singles: “On a Day Like Today” (#1 CAN; #11 U.K.), When You’re Gone”(-with Melanie C- #13 CAN; #2 U.K.), “Cloud Number Nine” (#7 CAN; #5 U.K.)
2004: Room Service
– #2 in Canada; #1 in Germany
– Certified Platinum
– Hit Singles: “Open Road” (#17 SWI; #21 U.K.), “Flying” (#9 BEL), “Room Service” (#13 BEL)
– #1 in Canada and Switzerland
– Hit Singles: “I Thought I’d Seen Everything” (#40 BEL)
2014: Tracks of My Years
– #1 in Canada; #5 in Germany
Other Hit Singles
“Let Me Take You Dancing” (1979)
– First Hit Single
– #18 in Canada
“Please Forgive Me” (1993)
– From Greatest Hits Compilation So Far So Good
– #1 in Canada, Ireland, and Norway
“All for Love” (-with Rod Stewart and Sting- 1993)
– From the movie The Three Musketeers
– #1 in several countries including Canada and the U.S.
“Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” (1995)
– From the movie Don Juan DeMarco
– #1 in several countries including Canada and the U.S.
“Rock Steady” (- with Bonnie Raitt- 1995)
– From Bonnie Raitt’s live album Road Tested
– #17 in Canada
“I Finally Found Someone” (-with Barbra Streisand- 1997)
– From the film The Mirror Has Two Faces
– #18 in Canada and #1 in Ireland
“Back to You” (1997)
– From live MTV Unplugged album
– #1 in Canada and #17 in the U.K.
“I’m Ready” (1997 version)
– From live MTV Unplugged album
– #11 in Canada and #19 in the U.K.
“The Best of Me” (1999)
– From Greatest Hits album The Best of Me
– #10 in Canada and #31 in Switzerland
“Don’t Give Up” (-Chicane featuring Bryan Adams- 2000)
– From Chicane’s album Behind the Sun
– #9 in Canada and #1 in the U.K.
“Here I Am” (2002)
– From the Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron soundtrack
– #5 in the U.K. and #12 in Austria
Bryan Adams’ blue-collar image—typically, a [white] T-shirt and jeans—mirrored the hard-working values of his music, a straightforward style of rock and roll. His writing with Jim Vallance reflected superior craftmanship; the sentimental themes of Adams’ songs to the mid-1980s – love, love lost, loneliness – were unsentimentally sung in a voice characterized by a raspy urgency.
— Encyclopedia of Music in Canada
From every standpoint, Bryan Adams is the most successful male pop star in Canadian history.
Childhood and Youth
Bryan Adams was born in Kingston, Ontario in 1959 but spent most of his childhood travelling, as his father was a diplomat. This brought him to his parents’ native England, Israel, Portugal, and Austria. When he was 14, his parents split up and his mother took him and his little brother to settle in North Vancouver. Adams recalls becoming attracted to rock and roll when hearing the Beatles on the ferry while crossing the English Channel. He worked as a dishwasher saving up enough money to buy a Fender guitar and began auditioning as a band guitarist. After several rejections, he put together his own band who practised in his mother’s rented basement. They performed around the Vancouver nightclub circuit.
Bryan quit school to give him more time to pursue his musical career and spent the money his parents had saved for his university tuition to buy a piano. In the summer of 1976, just after the success of Sweeney Todd’s “Roxy Roller”, lead singer Nick Gilder departed for a solo career. Bryan Adams approached the band and convinced them, in a single audition, that he was fit to be Gilder’s replacement. He went into the studio and the band recorded their second album If Wishes Were Horses, Adams co-writing three songs for the album. Constant touring in confined vehicles strained the relationship Adams had with the band, and he quit at the end of 1977.
In January 1978, Adams was in a music store and a mutual friend introduced him to Prism’s drummer Jim Vallance. Vallance had used the pseudonym “Rodney Higgs” with the band for fear that, if the band had been unsuccessful, he would never be able to secure his own recording contract, something he was trying to do on the side by writing his own songs. Bryan and Jim hit it off immediately and began writing songs together. The first song they wrote was “Don’t Turn Me Away”. Their collaboration bore fruit in securing a one-dollar recording contract for Adams with A&M Records via a demo tape.
Bryan’s first hit was “Let Me Take You Dancing” which made the Top 20 and received extensive airplay in Vancouver. Adams used this success to go after the most prestigious local manager in the business—Bruce Allen. Adams and Vallance wrote songs for Allen’s clients Prism (“Jealousy”, “You Walked Away Again”, “Take It or Leave It”) and Loverboy (“Jump”) and Allen finally accepted managing Adams.
In 1980, Adams released his first (self-titled) album which sold respectfully though not as well as they had hoped. Adams began touring with Remote Control—the embryonic Strange Advance. His sophomore effort, You Want It You Got It, did better (going Gold), spawning the Top 30 hit “Fits Ya Good”. Adams and Vallance were asked, as a result of their burgeoning success, to assist Kiss with their song-writing for the band’s 1982 album Creatures of the Night. They co-wrote “Rock and Roll Hell” and “War Machine” with Gene Simmons.
At some point along the way, Adams decided to change his singing from a higher-pitched, smooth style to a more gravelly, gruff voice.
Adams and Vallance were encouraged by their growing success but really yearned for a big breakthrough. They knew they needed to write very catchy songs. One day, they sat down together to write a new song. One of the pair threw out the line “Cuts like a knife” and the other returned “And it feels so right”. Adams has stated in interviews that this was the defining moment in his career, the master key that unlocked the doors to superstardom.
Release of his third album Cuts Like a Knife resulted in Adams long sought-after breakthrough in 1983. Three Top 30 singles followed, one of which, “Straight from the Heart”, made the Top 10 on the American Billboard charts. He also got his foot in the door in Europe, as “This Time” made the Top 30 in Ireland. The album was certified Platinum in the U.S. and 3x Platinum in Canada. Adams opened for Journey in the U.S.
Anticipation was high for Bryan Adams’ next album. A&M made the decision to release simultaneously a video package with the album, something that had never been done before in the music industry. Tina Turner was brought on for a duet on one of the tracks. Reckless was released around Halloween in 1984 and the first single “Run to You” scaled up the charts, breaking into the Top 10 in Canada, the U.S., and Ireland. It was nominated for the Song of the Year Juno Award. Power-ballad “Heaven” did better outside of Canada where it peaked at #11, going all the way to #1 on the Billboard Charts, #2 in Norway, and cracking the Top 10 in Ireland and Sweden. Heartland rocker “Summer of ’69” made the Top 5 in the U.S. and Netherlands. Three more singles made the Top 20. The result of all this was that, on December 17th, 1985, Reckless became the first album from a Canadian artist to attain Diamond status in Canada, meaning that it had sold 1 million copies domestically. The population of Canada at the time was close to 26 million, meaning that 1 in 26 babies, children, youth, adults, and seniors bought the album. Reckless went 5x Platinum south of the border (sales in excess of 5 million), sold 13 million copies worldwide, and nabbed the Juno Award for Album of the Year.
Adams went on a world tour headlining sold-out concerts in the U.S., Japan, Australia, Europe, and then a homecoming concert in Canada, finishing off in his city of Vancouver.
Bruce Allen asked Adams and Vallance to join Canadian producer / composer David Foster in writing a Canadian response to Britain’s Band-Aid charity single for famine-relief in drought-ridden Africa. Prominent Canadian artists formed the singing group Northern Lights and recorded the #1 hit “Tears Are Not Enough”. (More on that later). Bryan Adams was one of the performers at the historic Live Aid concert in Philadelphia (USA). Newly-formed Canadian band Glass Tiger asked Jim Vallance to produce their debut album and Adams to sing backing vocals on its lead single “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone)”, a #1 hit in Canada and #2 in the U.S. Bryan Adams was now a very busy man.
Rounding Out the ’80s
Adams knew that duplicating the success of Reckless would be somewhat elusive and decided, instead, to add more depth, creativity, and maturity to his fifth studio album. Into the Fire was released in 1987. It was a commercial success (though a far cry from Reckless’), met with critical acclaim, but created an atmosphere of confusion and alienated a number of his fans; a number of his follow-up concerts had to be cancelled due to lack of response. Into the Fire was a darker, more reflective album whose songs dealt with more weighty subjects than lost love and teenage infatuation. Adams sung about war and Aboriginal rights. Only two hit singles resulted: “Heat of the Night” and “Heart’s on Fire”. (“Victim of Love” was a minor hit in the U.S.).
Adams handled the criticism of a failure to duplicate his previous success well, but ultimately it led to his falling out with Jim Vallance. They recorded an album’s worth of material with Canadian producer Daniel Lanois (U2), but Adams was unhappy with the results and scrapped everything to start from scratch.
Surpassing Previous Success
Bryan Adams searched for a new song-writing partner and found one in Britain’s Robert John “Mutt” Lange (Def Leppard, AC/DC, Shania Twain). Lange took his time perfecting the album which did not get released until 1991. But the long wait paid off; it surpassed Adams’ previous success with Reckless, matching Diamond status in Canada and peaking at #1 in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria, Australia, Switzerland, Norway, and Sweden. It went on to sell 16 million copies worldwide. In another unknown piece of trivia, Waking up the Neighbours became the first album since Neil Young’s 1972 Harvest to top the album charts in Britain. Ironically, however, the album was launched in Canada amidst a storm of controversy.
The Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) had introduced rules on Canadian content (often referred to as Cancon) designed to encourage Canadian artists to seek assistance at home rather than turning to foreign collaborators. The MAPL system required that two of the four in music, artists, production, and lyrics must be Canadian in order for a song or album to be considered Canadian. The rules meant that Adams’ new album Waking Up the Neighbours was not a Canadian album due to his collaboration with Lange. This infuriated the team working with Adams and was a big story in the press. The CRTC reconsidered and added a new provision to the rules: “The musical selection was performed live or recorded after September 1, 1991, and, in addition to meeting the criterion for either artist or production, a Canadian who has collaborated with a non-Canadian receives at least half of the credit for both music and lyrics.”
“(Everything I Do) I Do It for You”, written for the blockbuster movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, became one of the best-selling singles of all-time world-wide (the biggest for A&M) and broke a number of records; it became Adams’ biggest hit. With Adams’ switch to lighter arrangements from his previous rocking numbers, his popularity in Europe began to overtake the U.S. In fact, the United States was the only country in which Waking up the Neighbours sold less copies (4x Platinum) than Reckless. The album spawned six additional hit singles, two of which also topped the charts in Canada. Adams went on a world tour in support of the album. His concert at the Ritz Theatre in New York sold out in less than 20 minutes. At the end of the Canadian leg of the tour, he was welcomed home in Vancouver to a standing room only concert.
A Greatest Hits package was in order, and A&M Records released So Far So Good (6x Platinum). A new song appeared on the album: “Please Forgive Me”, an international Top 3 hit. In-between new album releases, Adams began appearing in hit singles for various motion pictures, most notably “All for Love” (with Rod Stewart and Sting) for The Three Musketeers and “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” for the Johnny Depp production Don Juan DeMarco.
With the growing popularity of dance music, hip hop, and R&B, Adams saw sales of his subsequent studio albums decrease and took the opportunity to pursue other projects. He had always had a passion for photography and began publishing picture books. He also became more heavily involved in humanitarian projects, promoting breast cancer research and educational opportunities for children.
Bryan Adams appeared at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, singing with Victoria pop star Nelly Furtado. The following year he announced the birth of his first child.