Bryan Adams

b. Bryan Guy Adams, 5 November 1959, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

AN ENERGETIC HARD-ROCK singer and guitarist, Adams was the most successful Canadian rock performer of the 80s and was responsible for the bestselling single in the world in 1991, ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It for You’ (A&M). A diamond of rough-edged romanticism, the song topped the UK charts for 15 weeks, the longest period since Frankie Laine’s 18-week run in 1953 with ‘I Believe’.

The son of English immigrants to Canada, Adams formed his first band in Vancouver in 1976, recording an album with rock band Sweeny Todd that year. Two years later he began songwriting with ex-Prism bass-player Jim Vallance, signing a contract with A&M Records’ publishing arm, Rondor Music. Their compositions were recorded by Kiss, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Prism and later Joe Cocker and Bonnie Tyler.

With a band that included Keith Scott (guitar) and Dave Taylor (bass), Adams recorded an eponymous album for the Canadian branch of A&M in 1980. Produced by Bob Clearmountain, You Want It, You Got It (1981) was Adams’ first international release, while his first hit came with the emphatic ‘Straight from the Heart’ from Cuts Like a Knife (1983). With Adams’ hearty, slightly husky voice and a winning blend of pop tunes and unwavering rock rhythms, the album provided further successes with ‘This Time’ and the title track.

A world tour with Tina Turner helped to make Reckless (1985) an international bestseller. ‘Run to You’ reached the British Top Twenty and was the first of a series of six American hits taken from the album, including the No. 1 ‘Heaven’, the nostalgic ‘Summer of ’69’, ‘One Night Love Affair’ and ‘It’s Only Love’, a duet with Turner.

In 1985 Vallance and Adams composed ‘Tears Are Not Enough’, the Canadian song for famine relief in Africa, and the following year Adams toured America on behalf of Amnesty International with U2 and Peter Gabriel. Into the Fire (1986) included weightier songs on such topics as the demise of the American Indians (‘Native Son’) and the First World War (‘Remembrance Day’). It provided hit singles with ‘Heat of the Night’, ‘Into the Fire’, ‘Hearts on Fire’ and ‘Victim of Love’. But his greatest success came with the theme song to the Kevin Costner-starring vehicle Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It for You’* (1991). It was co-written by Robert John Lange, producer of the album Waking Up the Neighbours, which, helped by a two-year-long tour, sold over ten million copies worldwide. Subsequent hits included ‘Can’t Stop This Thing I’ve Started’ and another duet with Turner, ‘Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven’. A further hit was the plaintive ballad ‘Please Forgive Me’, once again co-written with his regular producer Lange, from So Far So Good (1993). After becoming the first rock star to perform in Vietnam since the war in 1994, Adams had two further US No. 1 singles with film themes: ‘All for Love’ from The Three Musketeers, on which he was partnered by Rod Stewart and Sting, and ‘Have You Ever Loved a Woman?’ (1995) from Don Juan de Marco.

In 1997 Adams achieved further international success with 18 ‘Til I Die, his first solo album since Waking Up the Neighbours, on which he adopted a more rocking sound and image in an attempt to appeal to a younger demographic. Later the same year he issued a performance recorded for MTV Unplugged, which featured versions of many of his biggest singles, including the recent European hit ‘Only Thing That Looks Good on Me Is You’. On a Day Like Today (1998) included a pair of UK hit singles in the title track and ‘When You’re Gone’, a duet with Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm. However, it was less successful in North America, failing to make the Billboard Hot One Hundred charts. The following year Adams released the greatest hits collection The Best of Me, and continued to try and maintain a harder-edged sound and image, opening for the Rolling Stones on their No Sanctuary tour.

© Phil Hardy, Dave LaingThe Faber Companion to 20th-Century Popular Music, 2001

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