Barenaked Ladies

  • Biography:

    After a decade of mainstream success in their native Canada, the Barenaked Ladies finally hit big in America with their fifth album, Stunt, and its #1 smash, "One Week." A deliberately silly hybrid of pop and "rap," the song and its accompanying video were unavoidable during the summer of 1998, establishing the Ladies as the biggest Canadian cross-over act since Alanis Morissette and Sarah McLachlan.

    Cofrontmen and childhood friends Steven Page and Ed Robertson began writing music together after attending a summer music camp in 1988. After a couple of years performing in Toronto as a duo, Page and Robertson were joined by Tyler Stewart and brothers Jim and Andrew Creeggan, and in 1991 the band released an independent EP, The Yellow Tape. They were quickly signed to Sire/Reprise, which issued the band's debut album, Gordon, in 1992. The set reprised the hit "Be My Yoko Ono" from The Yellow Tape and also featured the Canadian hits "Brian Wilson" and "If I Had $1,000,000." Subsequent releases, Maybe You Should Drive (1994) and Born on a Pirate Ship (1996), didn't sell nearly as well, but produced enough Canadian hits to keep them on the pop radar. In 1997 the live album Rock Spectacle provided the group its first hint at U.S. success; although it only made it to #108 on the album chart, two of the album's songs cracked the Hot 100 —the bittersweet "The Old Apartment" (#88) and "Brian Wilson" (#68). When Stunt was released the following summer, it debuted at #3.

    Just before Stunt hit big, keyboardist Keven Hearn (who had joined in 1996, two years after Andrew Creeggan's departure) was diagnosed with leukemia. (His treatments seemed to put the disease in remission.) In 2000, Barenaked Ladies released Maroon (#5). Although it didn't produce a hit on the level of "One Week," the song "Pinch Me" climbed to #15.

    This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).