Bryan Adams, one of Canada’s most successful musicians, makes hit songwriting look easy, and has given plenty of material to others over the years, including Kiss, Motley Crue and Rod Stewart.
Adams’ third album, 1983’s Cuts Like a Knife, featured the single “Straight From the Heart,” which became his first U.S. Top 10 hit. Adams followed it up in 1984 with Reckless, an album that reached No. 1 in both the U.S. and Canada, and included some of Adams’ most popular songs like “Run to You,” “Summer of ’69” and “Heaven.” His success has only climbed from there.
“Writing songs is easy,” Adams wrote in a recent Instagram post, while discussing work on his upcoming 15th studio album. “Writing good ones is hard.”
But in addition to composing his own hit material, Adams has also written countless songs for other musicians, many of which have become essential listening in their own right. We’re taking a look at the songs Adams wrote – many with his longtime songwriting partner Jim Vallance – for others in the list below.
Adams’ “Let Me Down Easy” was a rock radio hit for Roger Daltrey from 1985’s Under a Raging Moon. “Bryan and I originally wrote this song for Stevie Nicks, but I don’t know if she ever heard it,” Vallance later recalled. “Things worked out in the end.” The album as a whole was intended to be a tribute to the late Who drummer Keith Moon, and Adams even appeared in the official music video.
“Let Me Down Easy” – Under a Raging Moon (1985)
“He was one of my biggest inspirations vocally,” Adams wrote on Facebook about a year after Joe Cocker‘s death in 2014. The hit single “When the Night Comes,” on which Adams plays rhythm guitar, was Cocker’s last U.S. Top 40 hit.
“When the Night Comes” - One Night of Sin (1989)
“Edge of a Dream” – Teachers soundtrack (1984)
“Feels Like Forever” – Night Calls (1991)
“Bryan and I were young, we wanted to be successful songwriters,” Vallance later told Rockpages, “and we got a call from Kiss, one of the biggest bands in the world. Of course you’re not going to say, ‘No thanks.’ I was slightly disappointed that we had to share credit with Gene [Simmons] on ‘Rock and Roll Hell,’ but it was also a good lesson for us. Gene’s a smart guy. I respect his intelligence.” Paul Stanley agreed that the moment was right. ”Bryan Adams is a terrific songwriter,” he told Rolling Stone in 2001. “Why not write a song with him?”
“War Machine” - Creatures of the Night (1982)
“Rock and Roll Hell” - Creatures of the Night (1982)
“Down on Your Knees” - Killers (1982)
Seemingly the antithesis of Bryan Adams, Ted Nugent took a swing at one of his songs for his 1984 album, Penetrator. “We were basically guns for hire,” Adams told Rolling Stone in 2015. “Different guys who were making records who would just call us and say, ‘Hey, you got anything for such and such?’ ‘Yeah, OK, sure.'”
“(Where Do You) Draw the Line” - Penetrator (1984)
When Motley Crue included Adams’ “Glitter” on Generation Swine, it wasn’t the first time the two acts had collaborated. Adams sang backing vocals on “Sticky Sweet,” a song on Motley Crue’s album from eight years earlier, Dr. Feelgood. “They were recording in Vancouver, where I happened to be, and they invited me down [to the ‘Sticky Sweet’ session],” Adams told the Morning Call in 1992.”In the room at the time was Vince Neil, Steven Tyler and Jack Blades. We just turned on the mics and went for it.”
“Glitter” - Generation Swine (1997)
Adams and Vallance wrote a song for Rod Stewart in 1985 titled “Temptation.” But Stewart hated the chorus and insisted on rewriting a new one himself. “We discussed it with Rod over the phone, but there was no changing his mind,” Vallance later wrote on his website. “He was ‘married’ to the new chorus. In fact, Rod was so confident that his chorus was better than ours that he promised to pay $10,000 to the charity of our choice if the song proved not to be a hit.” The song, retitled “Another Heartache,” reached a disappointing No. 54 on the U.K. chart and No. 52 in the America. “I believe Rod paid up,” Vallance added.
“Another Heartache” - Every Beat of My Heart (1986)
Bryan Adams and Tina Turner were no strangers to one another. She sung alongside him on “It’s Only Love,” the sixth and final single from Adams’ album Reckless, which earned them a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. Two years later, Turner would win a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance with a song Adams wrote for her called “Back Where You Started.” “I became aware of her voice from hearing ‘River Deep, Mountain High,” Adams later remembered. “There were a few female voices I loved growing up, but Janis Joplin and Tina were my main ones. … I loved Tina’s voice because, like Janis, she seemed completely unbridled.”
“Back Where You Started” – Break Every Rule (1986)
“Why Must We Wait Until Tonight” – What’s Love Got to Do With It (soundtrack, 1993)
“Rock Steady,” penned by Bryan Adams and Nashville songwriter Gretchen Peters, appeared as an electric duet on Bonnie Raitt‘s first live album in 1995, Road Tested. Raitt had also previously recorded a version of Adams and Vallance’s “No Way to Treat a Lady” more than 10 years prior in 1984. The song also featured Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. “We were sent a cassette of Bonnie’s finished recording prior to its intended release,” Vallance later said. “I remember being really happy with the production and the performance, in particular the vocal interplay between Bonnie and Christine, which was magical.” When Raitt was dropped by Warner Bros. that same year, the label refused to hand over the tapes. Nine Lives was released two years later in 1986 with a version of “No Way to Treat a Lady” that did not include McVie.
“Rock Steady” – Road Tested (1995)
“No Way to Treat a Lady” – Nine Lives (1986)
Originally written for the Spanish singer Julio Iglesias at the request of producer and fellow Canadian David Foster, “It Should Have Been Me” wound up in the hands of Neil Diamond after Iglesias rejected it. Foster played keyboards on the track, helping the album, Headed for the Future, reach No. 20 on the Billboard 200.
“It Should Have Been Me” – Headed for the Future (1986)
Carly Simon released her own version of “It Should Have Been Me” a year after Diamond. Coming Around Again, her 13th studio album, peaked at No. 25 in the U.S.
“It Should Have Been Me” – Coming Around Again (1987)
As original drummer for Prism under the pseudonym Rodney Higgs, Jim Vallance had a key interest in songs released by the Canadian rock band. “I took the coward’s way out and hid behind a fictitious name,” Vallance later wrote, noting that he adopted the pseudonym to avoid attaching his real name to any Prism albums that tanked. “I admit it was goofy, and certainly a cop-out.” Bryan Adams was never an official member of the band, but his songwriting helped propel them from album to album.
“You Walked Away Again” - Armageddon (1979)
“Take It or Leave It” - Armageddon (1979)
“Stay” - Small Change (1981)
“Don’t Let Him Know” - Small Change (1981)
“Good to Be Back” - Over 60 Minutes With Prism (1988)
“Cover Girl” - All the Best From Prism (1980)
Northern Lights was a one-off supergroup assembled by Canadian music manager Bruce Allen as a benefit for Ethiopia, following in the footsteps of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” project in the U.K. and USA for Africa’s “We Are the World.” Adams appeared with a group of Canadian legends including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot and Geddy Lee to sing a new track that he co-wrote with Vallance. “Tears Are Not Enough” reached No. 1 on the Canadian chart.
“Tears Are Not Enough” (1985)
“Bryan Adams was the guy we’d see in the office all the time,” Loverboy lead singer Mike Reno told Darren Paltrowitz in 2021. “He was younger than us. He hadn’t quite come out yet and he was pushing real hard, and he was writing a lot of songs. … I mean, he’s a writing machine. Even to this day I’m amazed at some of the things he does.”
“Jump” – Get Lucky (1981)
“Dangerous” – Lovin’ Every Minute of It (1985)
“Hometown Hero” – Wildside (1987)
Atlanta native Florence Warner, whose work appeared regularly in various TV commercials in the ’70s and ’80s, included Bryan Adams’ “Hold Me Once” on her 1981 album, Another Hot Night.
“Hold Me Once” – Another Hot Night (1981)
Stevie Vann’s backing vocals were used behind dozens of acts like Tears for Fears, Jim Capaldi (Traffic), Rick Wakeman, Wham!, Ray Charles, Def Leppard and others. She brought her voice closer to the front for a duet with Adams on her self-titled (and only) solo album.
“Prove It” – Stevie Vann (1995)
Though several other singers would cover the song, Lisa Bade was the first to release an official recording of “No Way to Treat a Lady.” Her 1982 take featured Mick Ronson (David Bowie, Mott the Hoople) on guitar. “Adams and I met Lisa in 1983 when we were in Australia, touring with the Police,” Vallance later wrote. “Lisa was singing backing vocals for the group Australian Crawl at the time.”
“No Way to Treat a Lady” - Suspicion (1982)
Bonnie Tyler put her own spin on “No Way to Treat a Lady” a few years later, working with producer Jim Steinman, who was known for his collaborations with Meat Loaf. “I did one song of his on the last album [Faster Than the Speed of Night] called ‘Straight From the Heart,’ so we asked him if he had any songs for this album,” Tyler said in 1986. “He gave this one to me and came along to the studio to have a listen and told me he loved the way we’d done it. I’m a big fan of Bryan Adams myself, you know. I think he’s got a tremendous voice.”
“No Way to Treat a Lady” – Secret Dreams and Forbidden Fire (1986)
Southern rock band .38 Special began to shift their sound toward a more arena-rock style in the early ’80s behind frontman Donnie Van Zant, younger brother of the late Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zant. “Back to Paradise” and “Teacher, Teacher” – both written by Adams – made their way onto Flashback: The Best of 38 Special in 1987.
“Back to Paradise” – Flashback: The Best of 38 Special (1987)
“Teacher, Teacher” – Teachers (1984); Flashback: The Best of 38 Special (1987)
The Irish Rovers
“Their manager, Les Weinstein, was a good friend of mine,” Vallance wrote on his website, “and he asked if Bryan and I would write a song for their 1989 Hardstuff album – which, of course, we were pleased to do. Adams and I did our best to write a sing-along ‘pub’ anthem.”
“All Sing Together” – Hardstuff (1989)
Can’t Wait All Night, Juice Newton’s sixth solo studio album, included the last two songs she placed on the singles chart: “A Little Love” reached No. 44, while the title track – written by Adams – peaked at No. 66.
“Can’t Wait All Night” – Can’t Wait All Night (1984)
Another track co-written with Gretchen Peters, “What Would It Take” appeared on Anne Murray’s 1996 self-titled studio project, which peaked at No. 10 on the Canadian RPM Country Albums chart.
“What It Would Take” – Anne Murray (1996)
Bryan Adams went country with “You Walked In,” a song whose protagonist seeks to find true love among a flurry of supermodels, singers and more – with references to Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Madonna and Princess Diana.
“You Walked In” – Crazy Nights (1997)
Krokus hit it big with their eighth album, The Blitz, becoming the first Swiss band to reach the Billboard Hot 100 with “Midnight Maniac.” The album also included Adams’ “Boys Nite Out,” which was originally slated for his own album Reckless, but was ultimately cut.
“Boys Nite Out” – The Blitz (1984)
Paul Hyde and the Payola$
For their fourth album, the Payola$ were paired with producer David Foster, who in turn brought in Bryan Adams. “David helped us pick the best material,” co-founder Bob Rock said in 1985, “and he helped give the album an overall focus.”
“It Won’t Be You” – Here’s the World for Ya (1985)
“Adams and I originally wrote ‘Edge of a Dream’ for the film Staying Alive, a Saturday Night Fever sequel written and directed by Sylvester Stallone,” Vallance once said. “As I recall, our song title was lifted directly from a line of dialogue in the Staying Alive script. … Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – our song was rejected.”
“Edge of a Dream” – Wild About Nothing (1993)
French singer Johnny Hallyday released an album written entirely in English in an effort to win over some anglophone fans. Adams wrote the title track for the resulting Rough Town. The bilingual Adams also wrote a French song for Hallyday, titled “Tout Pour Te Deplaire.” That wasn’t their only connection. “He very generously let me use his summer house (Lorada) to record part of 18 til I Die,” Adams wrote in an Instagram post a couple of years after Hallyday’s death. “In fact, that song was written there. I’ll always be grateful to him for that. … Good guy, French rock icon, sadly missed.”
“Rough Town” – Rough Town (1994)
“Tout Pour Te Deplaire” – Ca ne Change Pas un Homme (1991)
The Law, a supergroup featuring Paul Rodgers of Free and Bad Company and Kenney Jones of the Small Faces/Faces and the Who, relied heavily on outside writers for their first and only album. The final track listing included “Nature of the Beast,” a song originally intended for Tina Turner. “When we were working on the lyrics we tried to climb inside Tina’s head and imagine what she’d say to her ex-husband Ike, as if she were writing the song,” Vallance once said. “We had applied exactly the same principle when writing another song for Tina, ‘Back Where You Started’ … even though she’d told us not to write about her life. It was cheeky of us, but we thought we’d sneak it past her.”
“Nature of the Beast” – The Law (1984)
Future Fast Forward guitarist Ian Lloyd had already covered Adams’ “Straight From the Heart” a entire three years before its author released his own version. So, Lloyd wanted to include as much Adams as he could on Fast Forward’s lone studio project, Living in Fiction. “Matter of fact,” Lloyd said in 1984, “I almost had ‘Run to You’ on this album. I was really pushing for it, but it didn’t happen. That’s Bryan’s first single, and I know it’s a Top 10 record. I have a great home demo version of it that’ll never be heard by human ears, but my cats love it!”
“Play to Win” – Living in Fiction (1984)
“(Where Do You) Draw the Line” – Living in Fiction (1984)
“Where Did the Time Go” – Living in Fiction (1984)
Paul Dean issued his first solo album in 1989, after several years as Loverboy’s lead guitarist and one of their main songwriters. Hard Core included his take on “(Where Do You) Draw the Line.”
“(Where Do You) Draw the Line” – Hard Core (1989)
Sometimes referred to as the “British Queen of Blues,” Elkie Brooks’ version of Adams’ “Can’t Wait All Night” made it to No. 57 on the U.K. chart.
“Can’t Wait All Night” – Bookbinder’s Kid (1988)
Lisa Dal Bello
Lisa Dal Bello teamed up with Bryan Adams for her third album Drastic Measures, as well as her mother Yolanda, who is credited as a writer on several songs. The three of them collaborated on ”Never Get to Heaven.” Still, Dal Bello was only 17 at the time of her first album, and remembers being very naive. “Looking back, I realize now that I shouldn’t have recorded those first few albums. I wasn’t ready. Writing-wise, I didn’t know what I was doing,” Dal Bello told the Music Express in 2014. “I didn’t have a style or a direction and when that happens, you get pushed in a direction that quite often isn’t you. My advice to any new artist is to take your time [and] learn about the craft of songwriting. It is so important to know what you are doing.”
“Never Get to Heaven” – Drastic Measures (1981)
“You Could Be Good for Me” – Drastic Measures (1981)
“She Wants to Know” – Drastic Measures (1981)
Despite hailing from Halifax, April Wine first released Walking Through Fire in the U.S. a whole year before the album came out in Canada. It boiled down to a contractual obligation, as the band had technically already broken up. “Open Soul Surgery” was written by Vallance and his girlfriend Hilary Knight during the Prism days, with Adams adding to it for April Wine’s version.
“Open Soul Surgery” – Walking Through Fire (1985)