Our husky-voiced troubadour is an army-brat Scorpio who was born in Kingston, Ontario, in 1959. Because of his dad's job, he lived in Korea, Japan, Israel, then attended the same high school as comedian Tom Green, Colonel By Secondary School in Ottawa’s Beacon Hill neighbourhood. In 1974, he moved to Vancouver and at the age of 15, he became the vocalist for local band Sweeney Todd.
The band Sweeney Todd was originally made up of singer Nick Gilder, guitarist Jim McCulloch, bassist Budd Marr, keyboard player Dan Gaudin and drummer John Booth, logging a hit in ’76 with "Roxy Roller”. Then Gilder and McCulloch left and Gilder had hits like "Hot Child in the City" and "Here Comes the Night”. Adams became the lead singer in time for the band's second album, 'If Wishes Were Horses', but the album didn’t go anywhere and Adams left the band after less than a year.
In 1978, Adams met Jim Vallance in a Vancouver music store and it was the beginning of a songwriting partnership that continues to this day. Later that year, Adams signed to A&M records for one dollar. He still has the cheque.
Bryan Adams Hasn’t Heard Of You Either
Two years later, Adams was ready to release his self-titled debut album, which he had co-written with Vallance. It was released in February 1980. The record was met with indifference and Adams was tempted to spitefully call his sophomore release 'Bryan Adams Hasn’t Heard of You Either '. In the end, it was titled 'You Want It You Got It' and it proved decently successful with the minor hit single "Lonely Nights”.
‘Cuts Like a Knife’
His next record, 'Cuts Like a Knife', which came out in 1983, was his breakout record, containing the Top-10 hits "Straight from the Heart" and "Cuts Like a Knife”, which reached the #15 position. The album cover alone is a total classic.
Adams's fourth album, 'Reckless', was a major explosion. He released it on his birthday in 1984 and it has been going off ever since. Every single was a smash: "Run to You", "Summer of '69", the #1 hit “Heaven", "One Night Love Affair", "Somebody", and the Tina Turner duet “It's Only Love”. Adams wrote the title track for "Reckless" but the song didn’t make it onto the album. Instead, it went to Loverboy, who recorded it as “Dangerous” for their album 'Lovin’ Every Minute of It'. A month after the record’s release, Adams launched a two-year world tour which included a performance at Live Aid in Philadelphia.
An Incredible Moment
“If you think about it, it was really just an incredible moment for music in general,” Adams has said. “In ’84, ’85, things were pretty much dominated by Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen and Madonna and Prince. So for a little Canadian band to get a week or two at #1, and do what we did? That was pretty great.”
Quite A Career
The followup album to 'Reckless' was 1987’s ‘Into the Fire’ with the singles "Heat of the Night" and "Hearts on Fire”.
He became a vegan in 1989. In 1990, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. At this point, we’re, like, Congratulations, Sir. That’s quite a career you’ve had. Let us give you this Lifetime Achievement Award. Call it a day and take a break, dude. But we’re only at 1990. We’ve barely touched on his humanitarian work, his distinguished career as a photographer, and even more — and bigger! — hits.
‘Waking Up the Neighbours’
In 1991, Adams released the album ‘Waking Up the Neighbours’ which included the classic track “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You”, which was featured in the movie "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves". It went to #1 in 16 countries. It went on to sell more than 15 million copies worldwide, making it Adams' most successful song. It was the top hit of 1991 and one of the best-selling singles of all time. It won the Grammy for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television. ‘Waking Up the Neighbours’ also included the massive hits "Can't Stop This Thing We Started”, ”Do I Have to Say the Words?" and "Thought I'd Died and Gone to Heaven”.
'18 til I Die’
In 1993, Adams collabed with Rod Stewart and Sting for the single "All for Love" from the movie "Three Musketeers". The song spent three weeks at the top of the charts. "Please Forgive Me”, and "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?", from the "Don Juan DeMarco" soundtrack were also hits. In 1996, ’18 til I Die’ was released which included the singles “The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me" and "Let's Make a Night to Remember”. The album was certified three times platinum in Canada. Adams did "MTV Unplugged" in 1997 and released the album in December of that year. This guy just doesn’t stop, right? He was once asked to describe himself in five words and his answer was "Up for it, big time."
"When You're Gone"
Things got spicy in 1998 when Adams released ‘On a Day Like Today’ which included the absolute banger "When You're Gone" with Spice Girl Mel C. Adams rounded out the millennium with his second greatest hits compilation, ‘The Best of Me’, which had the #1 hit "Don't Give Up”.
It’s A Short Step From the Spice Girls to the Queen of England
Adams also began to work seriously as a photographer. In 2002, he was among the commonwealth photographers invited to photograph Queen Elizabeth II during her Golden Jubilee. One of his shots was used for a 2004 Canadian postage stamp, pictured. Another of his portraits of Queen Elizabeth II, this one with Prince Philip, hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London. In 2003, he co-created 'Zoo' magazine, an Amsterdam-based quarterly that covers fashion, art, literature and architecture. His photographs have been published in 'Vogue', 'Vanity Fair', 'Harper's Bazaar', 'GQ', 'Esquire' and more.
In 2006, Adams established The Bryan Adams Foundation in response to the South Asia tsunami. “The Foundation aims to improve the quality of people’s lives around the world by providing financial grants to support specific projects that are committed to bettering the lives of other people,” according to its website. “The Foundation seeks to protect the most vulnerable or disadvantaged individuals in society. It aims particularly to advance education and learning opportunities for children and young people worldwide, believing that an education is the best gift that a child can be given.”
Put Your Stamp On It
When you’re putting out your eleventh album and you’re wondering what to call it, ’11’ is as good a title as any and Adams agrees, presumably, because that’s what he did. Released in 2008, ’11’ reached #1 in Canada. The next year, Adams himself was featured on a Canadian postage stamp. “It is a wonderful honour to be amongst the great men and women who have graced our Canadian stamps,” Adams has said of this postal tribute . “I am humbled by the recognition.”
'Shine A Light'
In February 2010, Adams helped open the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver by performing "Bang the Drum”, a duet with Nelly Furtado, at the opening ceremonies. In February 2011, he became the first-ever international artist to perform in Nepal, which is pretty monumental, but not as monumental as welcoming your first child, which Adams also did in 2011. Bunny was born to Adams and his partner, Alicia Grimaldi, followed by sister Lula in 2013. Adams released his fourteenth album, ‘Shine A Light’, on March 1, 2019. The album features collaborations with Ed Sheeran and Jennifer Lopez. For his Shine a Light world tour, Adams teamed up with shipping company DHL to plant a tree for every ticket sold. This holiday season, Adams will headline the annual New Year’s Eve celebration in Niagara Falls alongside Juno award-winning band Walk Off the Earth.
Go Down Rockin’!
On the left is a vintage photo of (a long-haired!) Adams from the cover of his #1 2014 record ‘Tracks of My Years’. On the right? It’s a sneak peak of his throwback look for a new video coming out before Christmas which the star just shared on Instagram with these words: “Thanks everybody for all the fantastic birthday wishes.❤️ … What’s the lesson? Go down rockin’!”