Born in Kingston, Ontario, to British parents who had emigrated from England in the 1950s., Adams’ father joined the Canadian Army, followed by a stint with the United Nations as a peace keeping observer, and finally as a Canadian diplomat. Adams grew up traveling around the world with his parents, with his father’s diplomatic postings in Europe and the Middle East. He traveled through the United Kingdom, and the Middle East, and spent more than four years in Lisbon, Portugal and a year in Vienna, Austria.
From the ages of 14 to 18, Adams worked as a dish washer to save money for a proper guitar. He quit the job after a year and started auditioning as a guitarist while rehearsing his own band in his mother’s rented basement in North Vancouver. Adams elected to sing until they found a singer, but they never found one, and his auditioning landed him a few jobs, with bands like Shock and Sweeney Todd, who in 1976 released If Wishes Were Horses with the 15-year-old Adams as the singer. He quit school to play nightclubs and go on the road and upon his return he settled into the Vancouver studio scene, working as a background vocalist for the CBC and working with keyboardist Robbie King, whom Adams attributes as having given him his first paying session.
In 1978, at the age of 18, Adams met Jim Vallance introduced by a mutual friend in a Vancouver music store. Vallance was the former drummer and principal songwriter for Vancouver based rock band Prism and had recently quit that band to focus on a career as a studio musician and songwriter. They agreed to meet at Vallance’s home studio a few days later, which proved to be the beginning of a partnership which still exists today. Later in 1978, Adams signed to A&M records for the paltry sum of one dollar. Some of the first demos written in 1978 have surfaced over the years, most notably “I’m Ready” (recorded for both the album Cuts Like a Knife and later his release for MTV Unplugged) and “Remember,” which was recorded on his first album. Both songs were covered by other artists even before his first album was released. Also recorded during this time was “Let Me Take You Dancing,” which made the Canadian RPM chart in March 1979 and its B-Side “Don’t Turn Me Away”. “Straight From The Heart” was also written during this period. The song was later recorded for Adams’ third album “Cuts Like A Knife” in 1983 and released as a single, becoming Adams’s first top ten record in the US in 1983.
Adams’ self-titled debut album was released in February 1980, and marked the beginning of what was to become a long songwriting partnership between Adams and co-writer Jim Vallance. With the exception of “Remember” and “Wastin’ Time”, most of the album was recorded from 29 October up until 29 November 1979 at Manta Studios in Toronto and co-produced by Adams and Vallance. The album was certified gold in Canada in 1986.
Adams’ second album, You Want It You Got It, was recorded in New York City in two weeks and it marked Adams’ first album co-produced by Bob Clearmountain. It was released in 1981 and contained the FM radio hit “Lonely Nights,” but it was not until his third album that he achieved international recognition, popularity and sales.
Adams also co-wrote songs for other bands during this time including Billboard charted songs like “No Way to Treat a Lady” for Bonnie Raitt, Don’t Let Him Know for Prism, Teacher Teacher for 38 Special, Edge Of A Dream for Joe Cocker and many more.
Cuts Like A Knife, which was released in January 1983, was Adams’ breakout album due mainly to the lead singles. “Straight from the Heart” was the most successful song, reaching number ten on the Billboard Hot 100. Another single, “Cuts Like a Knife” charted at number 15. “This Time” also placed on the Hot 100. Music videos were released for four of the singles from the album. “Cuts Like a Knife” arguably became Adams’ most recognizable and popular song from the album. Its music video received heavy airplay on music television channels. The album peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200 album chart and achieved three times platinum status in Canada, platinum in the United States and gold in Australia.
Adams’s album, Reckless, co-produced by Adams and Bob Clearmountain, peaked at number one on the Billboard 200. The album was released in November 1984 and featured the singles, “Run to You”, “Summer of ’69”, “Heaven”, “One Night Love Affair”, “Somebody”, and “It’s Only Love”, a duet with Tina Turner. All the singles had accompanying music videos and all charted on the Billboard Hot 100 but only “Run to You”, “Summer of ’69”, and “Heaven” peaked in the top ten. “Heaven” became the most successful single from Reckless at the time of its release on the pop charts, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and number nine on the mainstream rock chart. “It’s Only Love” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. In 1986, the song won an MTV award for Best Stage Performance. After the release of the album, Adams was nominated for Best Male Rock Performance. The album is Adams’ best-selling album in the United States and was certified five-times platinum.
In December 1984, Adams embarked on a massive 2-year world tour to launch the album starting in Canada and the United States, then into Japan, Australia, back to the UK and again to Canada. After winning four Juno Awards, he headed south towards the American West Coast, culminating with 2 dates at the studded Palladium in Los Angeles.
After the tour in the United States, Adams took part of a grand ensemble of Canadian artists named Northern Lights, who recorded the song “Tears Are Not Enough” for the African famine relief effort. Adams later headed back to Europe for a fifty city concert tour with rock singer Tina Turner culminating in April with his return to London to headline three sold-out shows at the Hammersmith Odeon. Adams began the first leg of his tour entitled “World Wide in ’85” which started in Oklahoma and ended in October 1985. Adams later visited Vancouver, Canada, and afterwards returned to the American East Coast to play 2 sold-out concerts in New York.
The follow-up album to Reckless was Into the Fire which was released in 1987. The album was recorded at Cliffhanger Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia and mixed at AIR Studios in London and Warehouse Studio in Vancouver. This album contained the hit songs “Heat of the Night” and “Hearts on Fire” and hit the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic.
In 1989 Adams did backup singing on Motley Crue’s album Dr. Feelgood and also on Belinda Carlisle’s song “Whatever It Takes” which appeared on her Album Runaway Horses.
Adams’ next album, Waking Up the Neighbours, co-produced by Adams and Mutt Lange, peaked at number six on the Billboard 200. It was even more successful on the other side of the Atlantic, reaching number 1 on both big European markets, the UK and Germany. The album was released in September 1991 and featured “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You”, his second #1 hit single in the Billboard Hot 100. This song was featured on the album and a movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner and Alan Rickman. The single topped the charts in numerous countries around the world including big markets such as the US, the UK, France, Australia and Germany. “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” spent 16 consecutive weeks at number 1 on the UK Singles Chart, breaking a record previously held by Slim Whitman with Rose Marie since 1955. It also achieved record-breaking sales in the US. Canadian content regulations were revised in 1991 to allow radio stations to credit airplay of this album towards their legal requirements to play Canadian music. Adams won a Grammy Award in 1991 for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television.
Adams further supported the album with his tour, Waking Up the World which started on 4 October 1991, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. On 18 December 1991, Adams played two first-ever shows in Reykjavik, Iceland and then performed in the U.S. with a concert at the Ritz Theatre in New York City on 10 January. It was a sell-out in less than twenty minutes. In attendance were music legends Ben E. King and Nona Hendryx. The Canadian leg of the Waking Up The World Tour kicked off in Sydney, Nova Scotia on 13 January 1992, and wrapped up with a standing room only concert in Vancouver, Canada, on 31 January. In February 1992, he started touring in New Zealand and Australia for seven dates kicking off with a press conference in Sydney. On 21 February, the tour headed to Japan for approximately a dozen shows in six cities.
The tour continued through several European countries in June 1992, including Italy, Germany, Holland and Scandinavia, and in July 1992, Bryan performed for the first time in Hungary and Turkey (where he filmed his video for “Do I Have To Say The Words?”). During the long tour, further singles from the Waking Up the Neighbours album were released: In the US, the rocky “Can’t Stop This Thing We Started” peaked at number 2, and “Do I Have to Say the Words?” reached number 11. In the UK, “Thought I Died and Gone to Heaven” was the most successful single behind “(Everything I Do) I Do it for You” by reaching the Top 10. In September through December 1993, the tour took place in the US. The Asian tour headed to Thailand, Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong in February 1993, before returning to the US during March through May.
In November 1993 Adams released a compilation album entitled So Far So Good, that again topped the charts in numerous countries such as the UK, Germany and Australia. It included a brand new song called “Please Forgive Me”, that became another number 1 single in Australia as well as reaching the Top 3 in the US, the UK and Germany. In 1994 he collaborated with Rod Stewart and Sting for the single “All for Love” written for the Motion Picture Soundtrack of the movie Three Musketeers. The single topped the charts worldwide. It was followed in 1995 by, “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” (song released with the Motion Picture Soundtrack of the movie Don Juan DeMarco). It became another number 1 in the US and Australia as well as a Top 5 hit in the UK and Germany. Released in June 1996, the album 18 til I Die contained the UK Top 10 singles “The Only Thing That Looks Good on Me” and “Lets Make a Night to Remember”. The album peaked at number thirty-one on the Billboard 200 in the United States and held that position for three weeks. It was more successful in Europe and Australia and reached the top spot on the UK charts for Adams’ third number 1 in a row. The album has been certified platinum in the United States and is
Adams last studio effort which has been certified by the RIAA. 18 til I Die was certified three times platinum in Canada and Australia and two times platinum in the UK. On 27 July Adams performed at the Wembley Stadium in London in front of a crowd of about 70,000. It was his second sold-out concert there and it is often considered as his biggest concert ever as it went out live to 25 countries and fans from all over the world came up to watch the performance.It also received rave reviews from critics and fans alike. In December 1997, Adams released MTV Unplugged with three new tracks: “Back to You”, “A Little Love” and “When You Love Someone”. “Back to You” was the first single, followed by “I’m Ready”, an acoustic version of the Cuts Like A Knife track. The album was a top 10 success in Germany while both singles reached the top 20 in the UK.
On a Day Like Today was released in 1998 and was the first studio album since 1981’s You Want It You Got It which wasn’t certified by the RIAA. This release coincided with his contract being sold to Interscope Records. Despite Interscope’s involvement or lack of, On a Day Like Today enjoyed tremendous success internationally, entering the Top 5 in Germany and was certified platinum in the UK. It generated two British Top 10 singles: “Cloud Number Nine” and “When You’re Gone”, a duet with Melanie C of the Spice Girls.
To commemorate the millennium, Adams released The Best of Me, his most comprehensive collection of songs at that time, which also included two new songs, the title track “The Best of Me” and the UK number 1 track “Don’t Give Up”. The album reached the Top 10 in Germany and was certified three times platinum in Canada and Platinum in the UK. The single from the album, “The Best of Me” was a very successful hit with the exception of the US, where neither the single or the album were released by Interscope Records.
In 2000, Adams wrote and sang on a song for Chicane’s album Behind the Sun called “Don’t Give Up”. Even though his voice is somewhat altered electronically, it is still recognisable. An official music video was made of the song, in which Adams also appears.
In 2002, Adams wrote and performed the songs for the DreamWorks animated film, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. The songs were included on the film’s soundtrack. The most successful single from the soundtrack was “Here I Am”, a British Top 5 and German Top 20 hit. The song also gave him his fourth Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Song from a Motion Picture.
In 2004, ARC Weekly released its chart of top pop artists since the last 25 years and Adams came up at number 13 in the chart with four number-one singles, ten top five hits and 17 top ten hits. Six years after the release of On a Day Like Today, Room Service was released in September 2004. It topped the charts in Germany and Switzerland and peaked at number four in the UK, selling 440,000 copies in its first week in Europe and thus debuted at number one on Billboard’s European album chart. The single, “Open Road”, was the most successful single from the album and peaked at number one in Canada and number twenty-one in the UK. In May 2008, the album was also released in the US but charted only at number 134 on the Billboard 200.
In 2005, Anthology, the first 2-disc compilation was released, containing two new tracks. The US release features a new version of “When You’re Gone”, a duet with Melanie C. Also in 2005, Adams re-recorded the theme song for the second season of Pamela’s Fox sitcom Stacked.
In 2006, Adams wrote and performed the theme song “Never Let Go” which was featured in the closing credits of the film The Guardian starring Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher. Adams also co-wrote the song “Never Gonna Break My Faith” for the film Bobby. The song was performed by the R&B singers Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige and earned him a Golden Globe Nomination in 2007.
Adams released his eleventh album internationally on 17 March 2008. It was appropriately called 11. The album was released in the US exclusively at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club retail stores on 13 May 2008. The first single released from the album was “I Thought I’d Seen Everything”. Adams did an 11-day, 11-country European acoustic promotional tour to kick off the release of the album. The album debuted at number one in Canada (making it his first album to reach that position since Waking Up the Neighbours in 1991) as well as reaching number two in Germany. In the United States, the album charted at number 80. In May 2009, Bryan Adams announced on his Twitter account that he has started writing and recording a new album in Paris.
In November 2010, Adams released the acoustic album Bare Bones. It was recorded live at various locations on his “Bare Bones Tour” earlier in the year. It was certified gold in India a year later, and he thanked all his Indian fans for giving him such support.