Canadian icon Lee Aaron and longevity in the music industry

Lee Aaron is currently on tour promoting her new Fire & Gasoline album. Photo courtesy of Faithful Productions.

Her Bodyrock album went platinum in Canada. At just 22 she toured Europe opening for Bon Jovi. She’s known as the Metal Queen a play on her album of the same name— a title she still carries more than 30 years after the record’s release. These days the 54-year old Lee Aaron, juggles motherhood with life on the road.

Born Karen Lynn Greening, Aaron is currently touring in support of her latest studio album Fire & Gasoline. The new effort is her 11th career studio album and Tomboy is her first single in 20 years.

The average mother might be grocery shopping on a Friday night, but Lee Aaron sings her heart out onstage on top of her motherly duties.

“What I’ve been doing is targeted pockets of dates rather than doing a full-cross Canada tour. I’m sort of breaking up the touring,” she says. “My husband is also a musician, it makes it easier to understand [for our two children].”

For Aaron, touring is different now than it was in the 1980s.

“The music industry is not what it used to be. It’s not the days of record companies putting $50,000 in tour support. When you go out you have to figure it out and make it financially viable.”

She remembers her early days, touring with Bon Jovi in Europe during the spring of 1985.

“I knew we had made it when we came back to these same places and we were now headlining,”

With success came pressure from record labels for more of the same.

“There would be a hit song by a new artist and the record label would say you have to write something like that.”

Aaron and her band decided to forgo record company demands and made the album they felt they should make instead. The resulting work, 1989’s Bodyrock, was a commercial success.

“Of course when you have success everyone takes credit afterwards,” she admits.

In the early 1990s the musical landscape shifted and Aaron, like many musicians at the time, felt the repercussions.

“In pop-culture, grunge hit like a tsunami and it pretty much annihilated the careers of everybody that was doing classic melodic rock,” she explains. “I’m not the only person who felt a victim of that. I continued on.”

She soldiered on, but the waves just kept coming.

“I showed up one day in Vancouver and these banker boxes were on my doorstep. I discovered I was almost half a million dollars in debt that I wasn’t aware of and I had to declare bankruptcy in 1996.”

Although she is best known for anthems like Metal Queen, Hands On and Watcha Do To My Body, Aaron experimented with jazz and blues following her bankruptcy.

“I went to my roots and started singing jazz and blues never expecting that to be successful.”

A second career was not an option.

“I can’t ever remember not thinking I was going to be a singer; I always knew what my passion was.”

The singer was recently inducted into Brampton’s Walk of Fame.

“I think in a weird way it meant more to my parents,” she says of the induction. “All those years of screwing up and piano lessons…they invested in me. It’s really more of a payoff for them.”

To Lee Aaron, it represents more than just another award.

“At home I have Toronto Music Awards and a Canadian Music Publisher Association songwriter award, this one has the significance of a lifetime award achievement”.

Judging by her youthful appearance, you’d never know she’s been in the music business for more than three decades.

“I resist the temptation of feeling old, I probably would feel [age] if I wasn’t continuing to be an artist and doing records,” she laughs.


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Originally from Canada's east coast, now living in Durham Region, Tommy is an award-winning, multi-faceted journalist covering news, popular-culture, entertainment, sports and more. My work has been featured in The Chronicle, The Brooklin Town Crier and You can follow me on Twitter @itsTommyMorais