The Story Behind The Song: Bryan Adams' (Everything I Do) I Do It For You

Bryan Adams in 1991
Bryan Adams in 1991 (Image credit: Mick Hutson \/ Getty Images)

It’s unlikely that any musician has ever spent an hour more profitably than Bryan Adams did in 1990. The Canadian bandleader was working in London with producer Mutt Lange when the pair were asked to write a theme song for the forthcoming Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, and handed a tape of the film’s soundtrack by composer Michael Kamen to get them started.

“It only took us about 45 minutes,” shrugs Adams of the quickfire genesis of (Everything I Do) I Do It For You. “We knocked it out, then sat back to listen to it for the first time, and we looked up at one another and grinned. Straight away, we knew that we’d written something beautiful, but I had no idea of the impact it would have.”

That’s not to say the song was a workmanlike effort. A sweeping, string-laden epic, it bore all the hallmarks of the pair’s songwriting chops. “The track originally started from a long piece of orchestration,” Adams told the Songwriter Universe website. “We narrowed the theme down to the little piano intro at the beginning and then we started writing a top line to it. Next time you check it out, notice the use of counter melodies, where the piano plays one thing and the vocal does another.”

He added of its completion: “It was a moment I’ve only felt a few times. The moment when you know it’s a good song. You don’t know if it’s a hit, you just know that it’s good.”

In June 1991, Adams would have that question answered in emphatic style. By that point, the singer had enjoyed both critical respect and massive sales for 1984’s Reckless album, but had lost a little momentum with 1987’s Into The Fire, and must have felt some pressure to write an anthem for the new decade. Now, Everything I Do attacked on three fronts, released not only as a single, but also featured on both the Prince Of Thieves soundtrack and Adams’ own studio album, Waking Up The Neighbours.

A performance tacked onto the film’s closing credits ensured further saturation, propelling the song to a record-breaking 16-week UK#1 run, seven weeks atop the US Billboard chart, international ubiquity and 15 million sales. Adams himself claims not to have done a single interview to promote it. “I’ve never courted it much,” he told Classic Rock in 2008. “I don’t care about chart positions. That was the flukey thing.”

For all its success, there’s a case that Everything I Do changed the perception of Adams, from a blue-collar everyman rock‘n’roll songwriter to a sweet-tooth balladeer who wrote songs for first dances. In a 2002 Guardian piece, he appeared to half-concede the shift (“Perhaps, yeah. I never see it like that”). But in the same interview, he vigorously refuted an enquiry to whether the song was an albatross. “How could it be an albatross? It’s a moving piece of music and it’s international. Everybody around the world got that song…”

Live: Bryan Adams in London

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.