He’s best known for his 1984 album Reckless, which produced the hits "Heaven," "Run to You," and, of course, "Summer of '69," but Grammy-winning Canadian rocker Bryan Adams has had a career filled with much more than sold-out tours and awards—even if he is still releasing albums and touring religiously 10 days each month. "When people are singing your songs back to you that’s the biggest payback you could have as a songwriter," he told The Telegraph last year. "I don’t consider what I do work really because it’s too satisfying for me."
1. HE WAS BASICALLY AN ARMY BRAT—JUST, MORE LIKE A DIPLOMACY BRAT.
Bryan Adams was born to British-Canadian immigrants in Kingston, Ontario in November 1959. His father, who had spent time in both the British and Canadian armies, eventually became a foreign service diplomat with the UN. The Adams family lived in Portugal, Austria, Israel, and Japan during Bryan’s childhood. When his parents divorced when he was 12, Adams didn’t see his father for a decade—that is, until the mid-'90s when a concert tour took him to Japan and the two reconciled over dinner.
2. HIS FIRST LABEL CONTRACT IN 1978 WAS FOR $1.
That’s right. $1. "Contracts have to have a denomination passed back and forth to make them legal. And because they didn't want to give me any money, one dollar was the minimum amount to make the contract legally binding," Adams told Rolling Stone last year. "I still have the check somewhere … It proves the absurdity of the whole thing."
3. HE WROTE HIS BIGGEST HIT IN UNDER AN HOUR.
Adams’s monster hit, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You," was specifically written for the 1991 movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but he had to compete with the likes of Annie Lennox, Kate Bush, and Peter Cetera for the job. Michael Kamen, the composer for the film, thought Adams had enough roughness and edge to make the ballad compelling and romantic without becoming saccharine.
"I write sweet melodies," Kamen has said, "and sometimes they need someone to deliver them with enough authority to make sure that you don’t fall asleep." It worked: Adams and super-producer Mutt Lange wrote the lyrics in roughly 45 minutes to fit with Kamen’s orchestration, and the song went on to be one of the best-selling singles of all time (as well as a wedding staple for the entirety of the '90s).
4. HE DOESN’T SHY AWAY FROM SAYING "SUMMER OF '69" IS ABOUT SEX.
"I think it's timeless because it's about making love in the summertime," Adams said in 2008. "There is a slight misconception it's about a year, but it's not. '69' has nothing to do about a year, it has to do with a sexual position … At the end of the song the lyric says that it's 'me and my baby in a 69.' You'd have to be pretty thick in the ears if you couldn't get that lyric."
Originally, the song wasn’t even going to be called "Summer of '69"—while writing it, Adams and co-writer Jim Vallance (who maintains the song was initially about nostalgia) had been calling it "Best Days of My Life." But then, Adams ad-libbed that little "me and my baby" bit, and it stuck. "I'd done that as a joke, really," he told Rolling Stone. "And then we thought it was catchy."
5. RYAN ADAMS HAS WORKED OUT HIS PROBLEMS WITH BRYAN ADAMS.
In 2002, singer Ryan Adams had an infamous clash with a fan during a concert at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. The concertgoer kept shouting requests during Ryan’s acoustic sets to hear Bryan Adams’s "Summer of '69"—Ryan had the fan ejected from the venue and refused to continue the concert until he was gone. "I had to go into therapy because of the whole Bryan Adams 'Summer Of '69' thing," Ryan told Spin four years later while discussing how rude he thought his fanbase could be.
Since then, Ryan and Bryan have become friends. "There’s just this long story that I supposedly have a problem with Bryan Adams, but that’s actually not true," Ryan told The Current in 2014. "He’s one of the hardest-working musicians out there … I totally respect this guy." In 2015, Ryan Adams returned to the Ryman and played "Summer of '69," and Bryan approved. "Ryan wrote to me to tell me the day before that he was going to do it," Bryan told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I think it was some sort of cathartic release for him."
Fun fact: Bryan and Ryan, besides sharing incredibly similar names, also share a birthday: November 5.
6. SPEAKING OF BIRTHDAYS, HIS ALBUM RECKLESS WAS RELEASED ON HIS 25TH.
1984’s Reckless was Adams’s fourth studio album, and it was his huge global breakthrough. Not only was it the first album by a Canadian artist to sell one million units in Canada, but it also spent two weeks at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard charts and produced six Top 15 hit singles.
7. HE WAS ALSO A FRIEND TO AMY WINEHOUSE.
Not only did Adams take a number of portraits of the British songstress (including the cover of her 2011 posthumous album Amy Winehouse Lioness: Hidden Treasures), but he also helped her get away from London in the midst of her drug, drinking, and marital problems. Over Christmas 2007, Adams invited Winehouse to stay at his home on the private Caribbean island of Mustique to detox. It worked, at least for a while: according to Winehouse, Adams only had beetroot and carrot juice in the fridge, and the stay was a good reboot for her. Two months later, when she won five Grammys for her multi-platinum album Back to Black, she was still sober, likely at least partially thanks to her stay with Adams.
8. HE’S A PHOTOGRAPHER—AND A GOOD ONE.
Adams doesn’t just have a photography hobby, he has a second career. In the late ‘90s, he began focusing on his camera work and published a number of books to raise money for various causes—his 2013 book Wounded: The Legacy of War focused on those injured in active duty, with proceeds going to various veteran support charities; earnings from 1999’s Made in Canada go to breast cancer research (the cover model was a close friend who had lost her hair to chemotherapy). He’s had numerous exhibitions, including one at London’s National Portrait Gallery in 2008, and his snaps of rock stars and supermodels regularly appear in fashion magazines like Vogue, Interview, and Zoo.
9. ONE OF HIS PHOTOS OF QUEEN ELIZABETH WAS USED FOR A CANADIAN STAMP.
Back in 2003, during the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, Adams got a call from a friend at the London photography studio Camera Press about doing a five-minute portrait session with the Queen. He took this candid snap at Buckingham Palace, and by the following year, it was on the Canadian 49¢ stamp.
10. ADAMS HIMSELF HAS ALSO BEEN ON A CANADIAN STAMP.
In 2009, Canada released a set of four stamps featuring artists who had enhanced Canada's music industry. Surprisingly (to Americans, perhaps), the other recipients were not fellow superstars like Céline Dion, Alanis Morissette, or Joni Mitchell, but more national heroes like Édith Butler, Stompin' Tom Connors, and Robert Charlebois.
11. HE RECENTLY DID A DUET WITH FELLOW CANADIAN JUSTIN BIEBER.
At a label-sponsored fundraising event last fall in Berlin, the two Canucks did an acoustic duet of one of Bieber’s first hits. "Justin was all for it," Adams’s longtime manager, Bruce Allen, told Billboard of the performance. "[Bryan] learned the song pretty quick in the dressing room and it was a really good time."
12. HE HOLDS DUAL CANADIAN AND BRITISH CITIZENSHIP.
He may be primarily known as a Canadian, but Adams has called London home since the early '90s. And based on his parents' British heritage, he has held both Canadian and British passports since at least the '80s. But the Great White North shouldn't fret—Adams has kept his ties to Vancouver intact. That was the city where he started writing music and getting studio time as a teen, and in the '90s, he bought and refurbished the oldest brick building in Vancouver, which is now his Warehouse Studio. He proudly performed a song he co-wrote during the 2010 Opening Ceremonies for the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver—a true status symbol for any country's top talent.