Why Lou Gramm Refused Payment for Bryan Adams’ Backing Vocals

Bryan Adams called on Lou Gramm for help while working on what would become his breakthrough album—and that Foreigner vocalist was happy to oblige. In fact, Gramm said he refused payment for the work.

What remains unclear is when and how it all happened, as Adams’ recollection differs from the story told in Gramm’s 2013 memoir Juke Box Hero: My Five Decades in Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Adams told UCR’s Gary Graff that Gramm took so long to return to management that Adams initially had others record the parts, and then taped over them when Gramm finally made contact. Gramm says they got together towards the end of the 1983 sessions Cuts like a knifewhich was being completed down the hall from which Foreigner was shooting.

“This young guy named Bryan Adams came into our studio,” Gramm wrote, and he “had a dilemma. This was the last day he had booked the studio for, so he had no choice but to finish his recording that day , otherwise his album would be delayed – perhaps for months. Apparently a couple of his vocalists had gotten sick and he needed someone to sing back-up vocals.”

Gramm said he could tell Adams was “desperate” and so he “volunteered to help him.” He said he “ended up singing on five or six of his songs,” but Gramm is officially named as a contributor on seven of the 10 tracks on the album.

Regardless of the details, Cuts like a knife would go on to ensure Adam’s success with platinum sales in the US and triple platinum sales in his native Canada. Gramm said Adams was “so grateful” for the help “and offered to pay me, but I told him it wasn’t necessary.”

Gramm said he was sure Adams would have done the same in the same situation. “It was just a case of one rocker helping another as far as I was concerned,” he wrote in Juke Box Hero“and that’s something I’ve tried to do whenever I could throughout my career.”

Decades later, Adams remained a big fan of Foreigner’s longtime former frontman: “I think he’s one of the greatest rock singers of all time,” Adams told Graff. “If I have a chance to have him on my record, I’ll do whatever it takes.”

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