With a Grammy award, an enviable collection of Junos and 21 SOCAN awards, superstar Vancouver songwriter Bryan Adams holds a pre-eminent place on the Canadian and international rock music scenes.
Born in Kingston, Ontario in 1959, Adams’s childhood travels included England, Israel, and Europe, where his father served as an army officer and diplomat, before he settled in Vancouver. Steeped in the music of Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Deep Purple, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton, at 16 Adams was singing for the glam-rock band Sweeney Todd. Then at 18 came the coincidental meeting with fellow Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Jim Vallance that launched Adams’s solo recording career.
The inspired Adams-Vallance songwriting partnership established a winning formula that made Adams’s distinctive velvety voice a regular feature on the charts in North America, the U.K., and abroad.
His first single — and first chart hit — was the 1978 disco number Let Me Take You Dancing, before he settled into classic rock, rapidly claiming ownership of the genre through the 1980s and 1990s. His 1980 debut album earned his first of many Juno nominations.
Adams remembered: “It was an incredible ascension from absolutely nothing to having hit songs. In the beginning, we used to spend hours and hours in Jim’s basement toying with ideas.” Vallance adds: “Right from the first day I was impressed with Bryan. It was obvious he had enormous talent coupled with extraordinary drive.”
Adams’s 1983 album “Cuts Like a Knife” roared onto the scene with the impact of a thundering train, the title track plus the singles Straight from the Heart and This Time winning him Junos for composer of the year (with Vallance) plus best male vocalist.
The following year’s “Reckless” album won Juno’s best album award and reached No. 1 on the Billboard and Canadian album charts, yielding another string of hot hits including the duo’s first Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single, Heaven; the SOCAN Classic and No. 1 Mainstream Rock track Run to You; and Adams’s personal favourite, the nostalgic Summer of ’69.
Since then several Adams albums have topped the U.K. charts, “Room Service” topped Billboard’s European chart, and “Waking Up the Neighbours”, “11”, and “Tracks of My Years” reached No. 1 in Canada.
Adams’s songwriting entered a more reflective phase with power ballads and “crooner” songs, including 1991’s deeply emotional (Everything I Do) I Do It For You (written with Robert “Mutt” Lange and Michael Kamen), which rocketed immediately to No. 1, becoming the Cashbox year-end No. 1 song. It went on to take the Grammy for Best Song Written for Motion Picture. (Adams’s soulful gospel composition Never Gonna Break My Faith later earned a Grammy for Aretha Franklin.)
Overall Adams has earned an eye-popping 63 Juno nominations and over 20 wins – for best entertainer, male vocalist of the year, best-selling album, best male artist, best songwriter, and producer of the year. His most recent Juno win came in 2020, for adult contemporary album of the year.
Among his other No. 1 songs (often in several countries) are Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman, All for Love, Please Forgive Me, Don’t Give Up, and Stop Crying Your Heart Out. His additional No. 1 hits on the Canadian charts include Can’t Stop This Thing We Started, Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven, Let’s Make a Night to Remember, Open Road, On a Day Like Today and the charity single (written with Vallance and David Foster) Tears Are Not Enough.
To aspiring songwriters Adams advises, “There’s only a one-point plan: Write good songs. Don’t think about your digital distribution….Just write good songs….Everybody wants good songs.”
Adams continues to write and record; recently he collaborated again with Vallance on the Broadway show “Pretty Woman: The Musical.” He is also known for his photography and his charitable foundation.
His many honours include a place in Canada’s Music Hall of Fame and on the Canadian and Hollywood Walks of Fame, a Governor-General’s Performing Arts Award, and a Canada Post stamp. He is an officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Order of British Columbia.