Examining the Many Movie Songs of Bryan Adams

After Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves - and that song! - hit big, the song work of Bryan Adams was in high demand at the movies...

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

Everything I Do (I Do It For You) was massive hit in 1991. It reigned over the pop charts for what felt like forever and became a fashionable choice for recessional music and first dances at weddings, giving rise to hilarious misunderstandings with church organists thinking that couples asking for the Robin Hood theme meant the Richard Greene ‘riding through the glen’ version.

Its popularity was met with animosity from much of the British public due to the extensive airplay it was receiving, but it really struck a chord with sixteen year old me. In fact it kickstarted my lifelong obsession with The Groover From Vancouver. I took a fair amount of ribbing from my school friends over it but I didn’t let their disdain stop me from seeking out his back catalogue and listening to some banging rock tunes that made me feel great. 

Everything I Do was partly responsible for rekindling Hollywood’s appetite for big songs at the end of big films (Titanic, Armageddon, Con Air, The Bodyguard et al), so in tribute to my hero, here is a look at ten of the best and most memorable of his movie songs.

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Heaven (from A Night In Heaven, 1983)

Bryan Adams’ Reckless album produced some stone cold classic rock tracks including Summer Of ‘69, Kids Wanna Rock, It’s Only Love (with Tina Turner) and Run To You. However, it’s Heaven which has gone on to become one of Adams’ most covered songs. Originally written as a tribute to Journey while he was touring as their support act, it was picked to become the love theme to John G. Avlidsen’s drama A Night In Heaven. Until Reckless came out a year later, the soundtrack album was the only place where this song could be found. It almost didn’t make the shortlist for Reckless as it was a lot lighter in tone than the rest of the album. A last minute change of heart on Adams’ part saved the track. Luckily, the gamble paid off as it went on to become his first number 1 single in the US.

These days A Night In Heaven is relatively unknown, having been largely overshadowed by the very similar (and far superior) Flashdance (a student working as a dancer by night seduces a much older college professor and has to face the consequences). It received widespread hostility from audiences and critics alike and failed to make back it’s $6 million budget. Avildsen would follow it up a year later with the much more well received The Karate Kid.

Everything I Do (I Do It For You) (from Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, 1991)


If you’re old enough to remember the summer of ‘91 you’ll also remember that you could not escape this song (no matter how hard you might have tried). It remained at number 1 in the UK for 16 weeks; a record still unbroken over a quarter of a century later despite the best efforts of Wet Wet Wet, Whitney Houston and Drake. Everything I Do became Bryan Adams’ first of three Oscar nominations for best song. It lost out to Beauty & The Beast on the night but went on to win AMA, Juno, Grammy and Ivor Novello awards. It’s now one of the biggest selling songs of all time. But it could have turned out so differently…

When Michael Kamen was putting the soundtrack for Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves together, several big music stars of the time were approached to collaborate on a pop song based on his Maid Marian theme. These included Kate Bush, Lisa Stansfield and Annie Lennox. Eventually it was whittled down to two possibilities: A duet between Julia Fordham with Chicago frontman Peter Cetera (who had provided the syrupy ballad Glory Of Love for The Karate Kid Part II) and Bryan Adams with his long time songwriting partner and producer R.J. ‘Mutt’ Lange. Kamen decided that Adams’ gravelly voice and hastily penned (cobbled together in less than an hour) romantic lyrics, incorporating lines of dialogue from the film worked best with his self proclaimed ‘sweet melodies’.

Originally the film producers wanted a period appropriate song with lutes and lyres. When they heard the finished product they panicked and hid it away at the halfway point of the closing credits, not realising what a worldwide smash they had on their hands.

It’s worth checking out the album Waking Up The Neighbors which came out three months after the film. The six-and-a-half minute (and in my opinion, far better) version of Everything I Do includes an extended two minute guitar solo at the end from one of my favourite guitarists, Keith Scott.

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Adams, Scott and drummer Mickey Curry all have uncredited roles in the film as Alan-A-Dale and his band of minstrels. In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment you can just make them out in the background of the celebration scenes at the Sherwood hideout. During the “Did God paint you?” discussion with Morgan Freeman’s character if you listen very carefully you can quite clearly hear Adams’ distinctive vocals in the background.

All For Love (from The Three Musketeers, 1993)

Following the success of Everything I Do and hoping to deliberately recapture what had previously been a happy accident, Kamen approached Adams again to work on a song for Disney’s big budget, star studded version of The Three Musketeers. The songwriting team remained the same but this time Kamen wanted to bring in two other singers to echo the titular triumvirate of heroes in the story.

Kamen was no stranger to pop music, having provided orchestral arrangements for Pink Floyd, Kate Bush, The Eurythmics and Def Leppard among many others so had many contacts. At the time Sting was enjoying some success in the world of film music, having also worked with Kamen on It’s Probably Me, the theme song to Lethal Weapon 3. He said of Kamen: “Michael could arrange and produce but also thought like a rock musician… If you were going to dare to approach that world of orchestration, you’d do it through Michael Kamen.” With Sting on board, one last soft rock balladeer was required. Rod Stewart had also utilised Kamen’s services on a previous hit so he seemed the perfect fit.

The resulting All For Love (a pun on the Musketeers’ famous cry) was a massive hit worldwide, raising the profile of the film. Unusually, the UK was one of the few countries where it didn’t score a number 1.

Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman? (from Don Juan De Marco, 1995)

By the mid-90s the name Bryan Adams had started to become synonymous with power ballads and blockbuster action adventures. However, his next collaboration with Michael Kamen was a fairly leftfield choice.

Johnny Depp was beginning to make a name for himself playing oddball characters, having recently starred in quirky projects like Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and Benny & Joon. Following the Oscar winning Ed Wood his next project was Don Juan De Marco, an unusual, but very sweet natured romantic drama about an ageing psychiatrist (Marlon Brando) in a comfortable but dull marriage. His latest patient, a young man (Depp) who believes himself to be the legendary Spanish womaniser and adventurer Don Juan, inspires him to improve his relationship with his wife (Faye Dunaway) by unleashing his repressed free spirit and imagination.

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Not exactly the kind of film Adams, Lange and Kamen were used to collaborating on. However, when they applied the now successful formula of Kamen’s musical motifs combined with Adams’ and Lange’s dialogue infused lyrics, and drafted in Spanish guitarist Paco De Lucia, they came up with another winner.

Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman? became Adams’ second Oscar nomination and was another worldwide hit. It lost to Disney again with Colors Of The Wind from Pocahontas taking the gong.

With its rather catchy flamenco inspired hook, the song’s leitmotifs crop up in Kamen’s score at multiple points. A Spanish language version of the song also appears in the film, and has become a favourite cover version of performers in Spanish speaking countries. ¿Has Amado Una Mujer De Veras? even popped up in Oliver Stone’s 1997 crime thriller U-Turn.

Star (from Jack, 1996)

There are four distinct facets to Robin Williams acting career: the zany madcap comedian we saw in Mork & Mindy, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Good Morning Vietnam; the serious awards contender of Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, and Good Will Hunting; the surprisingly sinister villains he gave us in One Hour Photo and Insomnia; the very schmaltzy characters he played in the likes of Bicentennial Man and Patch Adams. It’s very much in this latter category that the largely forgotten bittersweet comedy Jack – directed by Francis Ford Coppola! – falls.

When Jack is born with an exaggerated form of Werner syndrome, his aging process is four times the usual speed meaning that he has the body of a middle aged man by the time he reaches high school. This leads to ‘hilarious’ misunderstandings and heart wrenching soul-searching on the nature of using your time on Earth wisely.

Adams, Lange and Kamen were once more tasked with creating a lightning strike after Robin Hood and The Three Musketeers. The resulting track, Star, failed to live up to the expectations of the predecessors, failing to chart altogether in the US and only just troubling the bottom half of the Top 20 in the UK. It’s an odd track which suffers from sounding far too similar to Everything I Do. The piano hook at the start of each verse is almost identical. It’s is a shame because the’ lyrics are really quite uplifting.

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Adams would work just once more with Michael Kamen on a track called When You Love Someone (co-written with folk singer Gretchen Peters), which featured in the 1998 Sandra Bullock vehicle Hope Floats. The song was used as one of his new tracks for his critically acclaimed MTV Unplugged album.

I Finally Found Someone (from The Mirror Has Two Faces, 1996)

Barbra Streisand was working with composer Marvin Hamlisch on the soundtrack to her latest romantic comedy The Mirror Has Two Faces (a kind of Pygmalion in reverse), when her record producer David Foster suggested bringing in Bryan Adams to duet with her on the incomplete theme song. Adams and Lange came in, listened to what she had done so far and suggested a counterpoint melody on the verse, with both vocal lines coming together for the chorus. Streisand loved what Adams brought to the song and it was released as a single to accompany the film becoming her first Top 10 hit since 1980’s Woman In Love.

I Finally Found Someone also went on to become Bryan Adams third (and, at the time of writing, final) Oscar nomination and went on to far greater chart success than Star had managed.

The performance of the song at the 1997 Academy Awards is somewhat controversial. It has been speculated that Streisand took umbrage to the fact that neither the film nor her directing skills were nominated while Lauren Bacall (best supporting actress) and I Finally Found Someone were. Whatever the reason, despite attending the ceremony she declined to perform at it. Natalie Cole was drafted in to sing instead but she fell ill during rehearsals. At the last minute Streisand offered to step back in but was told by the show’s producers that Celine Dion (who was already performing her own song Because You Loved Me from Up Close And Personal) would now be singing it. During the performance Dion could clearly be seen flipping pages and reading from a score sheet on a music stand. Streisand left her seat and didn’t return until the song was over. She later apologized for her behavior that night and has since worked with Dion.

Neither song won that night. It was You Must Love Me, a new track from the film version of Evita that went home victorious. Personally, my hopes were pinned on The Wonders with That Thing You Do!

Here I Am (from Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron, 2002)

When DreamWorks’ ambitious animated western was in its early stages, it looked very different to the finished product that finally surfaced after a delayed release from 2001. Originally Garth Brooks was on board to provide songs and there were rumours abound that Bryan Adams’ was set to tackle his first starring role as the narrator and inner monologue of the eponymous horse. However, the deal with Brooks fell through and despite an early trailer in his native Canada using his already recorded dialogue co-director Kelly Asbury stated that Adams had only laid down a guide track until a big name actor could be brought in. Matt Damon eventually took on the narrator role.

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Don’t feel too sorry for Adams though, as he replaced Brooks and along with Lange, Hans Zimmer with his conductor of choice Gavin Greenaway and Adams’ current songwriting partner Gretchen Peters he produced nine new songs. For the love theme Don’t Let Go (the equine equivalent of Can You Feel The Love Tonight) fellow Canadian balladeer Sarah McLachlan was brought in to duet.

Here I Am was recorded twice: an orchestral version for a specific scene in the film and another more pop oriented take for the end credits. This version also became a successful single and is easily my favorite song on this entire list.

It’s such a shame Hollywood doesn’t do much traditional animation anymore because the seamless blend of computer and hand drawn animation in Spirit is breathtaking. It really showcased where animation could have been heading before full CGI became de rigueur. If you haven’t seen it, I can highly recommend it. As well as the stunning visuals, it’s an uplifting story too. Along with Den favourite The Iron Giant (another great looking animated film from around the turn of the millennium), it never fails to get dust in my eye.

I’m Not The Man You Think I Am (from Color Me Kubrick, 2005)

As we moved further into the new millennium Bryan Adams’ film output, while no less prolific, was filled with unusual and interesting choices. There was also a distinct reduction in power ballads. This creepy little piece perfectly accompanies the 2005 Anglo-French film Color Me Kubrick. It’s a quirky dramatised account of the misadventures of Alan Conway (John Malkovich), a real-life trickster who conned his way around Europe in the 90s by pretending to be the titular director. Along the way he was able to fool people into giving him favours (financial, sexual, culinary and more) in exchange for a role in his “next film”.

Adams wrote (again with Gretchen Peters and Eliot Kennedy who contributed to one of the songs in Spirit) and performed five songs for the film. The soundtrack CD has since been deleted and has become something of a holy grail for Bryan Adams fans.

It Ain’t Over Yet (from Racing Stripes, 2005)

I haven’t seen Racing Stripes (in which an escaped circus zebra vies to compete in a competitive horse race) but I have still included It Ain’t Over Yet for two reasons. Firstly, it’s just an upbeat, fun song reminiscent of the more rocky tracks from Waking Up The Neighbors. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it is used as a music bed for that staple moment of underdog-sports films, the training montage. Have a listen – it’ll make you believe in yourself…

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Way-Oh (from Jock Of The Bushveld, 2011)

Jock Of The Bushveld is a true adventure story based on the the beloved travelogue by author and politician Percy ‘Fitz’ FitzPatrick. It is held in the same high regard in South Africa as Greyfriars Bobby is in Scotland or Call Of The Wild in North America. In 1986 producer Duncan MacNeillie brought the story to the big screen for the first time. And then again in 1994 (writing and directing as well as producing). In 2011 he went for the triple, but this time in animated form. Jock Of The Bushveld (or Jock The Hero Dog as it is rather clumsily known internationally) became South Africa’s first homegrown feature length computer animated movie.

It turns out that Bryan’s prior discarded vocal work wasn’t in vain. When he submitted a song for the soundtrack, MacNellie invited him to try out for the title role based partly on the rumours surrounding Spirit. Although he doesn’t currently own a dog due to hectic touring schedules, Adams had always been around terriers as a child and MacNellie noted that his natural affinity for man’s best friend shone through in the audition.

The film, while not massively successful (financially or critically) is nonetheless well loved in South Africa and is largely credited with the recent revival in cinema attendance in the country.

There are two Bryan Adams songs in the film. By Your Side is more of what we’ve grown accustomed to from him – a big, emotional power ballad. The second song, Way-Oh, has upbeat lyrics, an infectious township style groove and a traditional South African choir on backing vocals, all with the Bryan Adams signature rock sound running through its veins. It’s a smashing song that wouldn’t feel out of place in The Lion King or Paul Simon’s Graceland album.

Other film songs by Bryan Adams include Mysterious Ways (from Cashback), Never Let Go (from The Guardian), You’ve Been A Friend To Me (from Old Dogs) and Don’t Look Back (from What Could Have Been).

Writing for other performers


Following A Night In Heaven, Bryan’s existing back catalogue was plundered for such cinematic delights as Class, Real Genius, Renegades, Problem Child 2, and Voyage Of The Rock Aliens; it would be another eight years before Bryan would be invited to write and perform another song for a movie but during that hiatus he provided soundtracks entries for many other performers, and has continued to do so since.

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In 1987 he penned Back To Paradise, the theme song for comedy sequel Revenge Of The Nerds II: Nerds Paradise. This was performed by 38 Special, the band of Donnie Van Zant (brother of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Johnny & Ronnie. Those parents have some sense of humour).

Two years after that Adams teamed up with his friend Jim Vallance (who co-wrote all the tracks on Reckless) and power ballad supremo Diane Warren to write the theme song for Tom Selleck’s prison drama An Innocent Man. Although When The Night Comes was recorded by Joe Cocker (and became the opening track for his album One Night Of Sin), Adams himself often performs it during concerts. That same year Bryan wrote Drive All Night for Clint Eastwood’s bounty hunter adventure comedy Pink Cadillac. Fifties rock ‘n’ roller Dion (The Wanderer) provided vocals but Bryan was offered a small walk on role in the film as a gas station pump attendant.

Adams would go on to write for Cocker again with the track Feels Like Forever, which appeared in the 1992 ice dancing drama The Cutting Edge. In 1993 he worked with former collaborator Tina Turner on new song Why Must We Wait Until Tonight for her biopic What’s Love Got To Do With It.

This continued into the 2000s with songs written for 2004’s Ella Enchanted (If You Believe by Andrea Remanda), the 2006 Robert Kennedy biopic Bobby (Never Gonna Break My Faith by Aretha Franklin & Mary J. Blige should have been an Oscar contender IMHO) and 2007’s Bridge To Terabithia (A Place For Us by Leigh Nash of Sixpence None The Richer with Tyler James).

In 2013 he provided three songs for the animated Wizard Of Oz sequel, Legends Of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (Candy Candy sung by Martin Short and Work With Me & One Day by Lea Michele who also played Dorothy).

His latest project is Pretty Woman: The Musical for which he has written the music and lyrics with Jim Vallance. The show stars Samantha Barks (Éponine in 2012‘s Les Misérables) in the title role. The world premiere is in Chicago this March and then it opens on Broadway in July.

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So that’s a brief look at my hero, and his best film work. For his non-film output I can heartily recommend his criminally overlooked 1987 LP Into The Fire and his 1983 breakthrough album Cuts Like A Knife. To end on, I’ve got a little gift for all who have stuck with me to the end: a Spotify playlist featuring many of the songs mentioned in this article – so don’t say I never do anything nice. Your know it’s true. Everything I do…