One of Canada’s most iconic vocalists, Lee Aaron, has gestated into a musical pioneer, not only a songwriter, producer, and entertainer but a devoted mother of two.

Aaron was one of the first women to write and perform hard rock. She released her first album, The Lee Aaron Project, at 19 years old, recording with some of Canada’s top performers of that era. Lee’s sophomore release, Metal Queen (1984), established Aaron as a trailblazer for women in rock. That title track and accompanying music video set a standard for the artists who came after her.

Over the years, Aaron has shared stages with Heart, Bon Jovi, Joan Jett, Suzi Quatro, Sinead O’Connor, Mötley Crüe, and Van Morrison.

Lee has worked with producers Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd), Peter Coleman (Blondie, Pat Benatar), and Dieter Dierks (Scorpions) appearing on the Scorpions’ Savage Amusement album after an impressed Dierks witnessed Aaron performing in Germany. Aaron’s Bodyrock LP (1989, recently re-released on vinyl) was ranked among the 20 most influential Canadian albums of the ’80s (Chart Magazine).

Canada Rock of Fame at Massey Hall on Sep 28, 2023 poster
Canada Rock of Fame at Massey Hall on Sep 28, 2023 poster

Aaron is still a very active musician. Her most recent album, Elevate, was recorded with Sean Kelly (guitar), John Cody (drums), and Dave Reimer (bass) at The Armoury Studios in Vancouver, Canada. The album features ten original tracks rife with Aaron’s signature sound: big guitar riffs, prominent vocals, and catchy melodies with memorable choruses. Lee and her band have been touring that album worldwide since its release.

In 2016, Aaron was honoured with a permanent star on the Arts Walk of Fame in her former hometown (Brampton) for contributing to Canadian Music. On September 28th she and a dozen other rock legends from the ‘70s and ‘80s will be inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame during a special Canada’s Rock of Fame celebration at Toronto’s Massey Hall in honour of the organization’s 25th anniversary. The event will include special guests, presenters, performances, and more. The additional inductees include April Wine, Chilliwack, Glass Tiger, Lighthouse, Loverboy, Max Webster, Michel Pagliaro, Platinum Blonde, PRISM, Rough Trade, The Parachute Club, and Trooper.

Locally, on Sunday, October 29th, Aaron will perform an intimate show at the Classic Bowl in Mississauga (TICKETS HERE).

We thank Lee Aaron for taking the time last week to field a few questions for V13 via Zoom. The audio and video are available here if you’d prefer to hear Lee’s answers in real time.

Congratulations on your Walk Of Fame induction. That’s amazing.

Lee Aaron: “Well, thank you. I was a little bit surprised when they called. I received an award on the Arts Walk of Fame in Brampton, which was my, well, I am calling it my hometown. And I lived there most of my young life, from about 10 until about 18-19 years old, and I started my first band there. So I received that in 2016. And that was a crazy honour. It was lovely. I got to bring my mother and my father before she passed away, and they got to be part of that. But yeah, Canada’s Walk of Fame is a crazy honour. I was a little bit taken aback when they called me, but I’m not going to say no.”

I think it’s awesome. I’m 56, so I guess I’m around your age (I’m not going to ask you how old you are), but I feel like that’s my era of music because that’s when I grew up. So that’s kind of what I’m used to. So when your name came up, I was like, oh right on; That’s perfect. You should totally be in there.

“Thank you.”

Do you tend to look back on your career, your 40-plus years in the music industry, and do you think of yourself as a Luminary? Someone who is deserving of recognition, someone who a lot of people revere in the genre of heavy music?

“No, that’s not something I wake up thinking about every day. But I think if you are a survivor in this crazy music industry and manage to sustain a career, it’s something. I took a minor hiatus to have my children with my husband in 2004; our daughter was born, and in 2006, our son was born. But then I came back on. I blazed back onto the scene in the mid-2010s with a bunch of new albums, and I continued recording because I still love it so much. The whole creative process.

“And so the weird thing is it’s like the longer you can actually sustain a career and stick around, I’ve realized in the last few years you segue into this area where people go, ‘wow, this person deserves respect.’ It’s simply due to the fact that they’ve managed to sustain a career for this long and still have a fan base and still be able to tour.

“I still go to Europe a lot. I still tour quite regularly all across Canada. So, no, it’s not something I think about every day. But I think what is the greatest joy of my professional life right now is to be able to be on stage performing some of the older songs and the newer songs and to see there’s a mom out there who’s in her 50s or maybe early 60s with her daughter and grandchildren. They are all loving Lee Aaron music. Do you know what I mean?

“And nothing brings me greater joy than to see that your music has somehow done this generational transcendence. I was just performing a couple of days ago in British Columbia at a couple of festivals, and I had girls in their early 20s going, ‘man, I love Metal Queen,’ and ‘you inspired me so much.’ And I was just like, wow. So, I guess it starts becoming a reality for you at a certain point in time if you are around long enough.”

Lee Aaron ‘Elevate’ album artwork
Lee Aaron ‘Elevate’ album artwork

You’re amongst the younger inductees in this roster of 13 artists. So I have to wonder, you must’ve been into April Wine and Trooper and Prism and Kim (Max Webster). You would’ve listened to that stuff before getting into your career. Do you have a story or an anecdote about one or two of those bands once you became a musician that you could parlay for us?

“Well, sure, I’ll try. Yeah, it’s interesting. And the reason the majority of my success came at the end of the 1980s. This nominated ensemble of musicians is from the 1970s and 1980s. I was still in high school in the ’70s and early ’80s.

“But an interesting story, and I said this in one of my Walk of Fame thing about inspirations, is that I had never been to a concert in my life because, for my parents, it just wasn’t really in their wheelhouse; it wasn’t what they did. And when I was, I think, 14 or 15, Max Webster was touring, and I was in my high school band. I had a high school band at that time, and we all loved Max Webster. We were a bit geeky, a little nerdy, and we liked a lot of prog-ish kind of stuff. And Max was pretty unusual in terms of what they were doing musically.

“Max Webster straddled that commercial viability and musical complexity, and we loved that as a band. And they did this tour where they played a bunch of high schools in Ontario, and they played my high school. I just remember sitting there and watching them on stage, especially Kim, who was wearing sparkly red high heel shoes, platform shoes, and stockings. And I’m going, this is the most bizarre thing I’d ever seen in my life.

“But it was so inspiring because it made me think if these guys can be this weird but so amazing, then I can be a girl that does hard rock. There were no women in Canada at that point in time doing a more edgy form of rock n’ roll. So, that was extremely inspiring for me.

“Last year, I did a big benefit here in the Vancouver area with a bunch of bands: Loverboy, Chilliwack, and Trooper. Some of those notable bands were all part of this benefit for the BC Cancer Foundation. I came off stage after singing ‘Hands-on,’ and Bill Henderson was literally dancing and singing at the side of the stage when I was singing one of my big hits. And I was a little taken aback, like, ‘Wow, does Bill Henderson even know who I am?’

“Because I was a Chilliwack fan when I was a young girl, and I came off stage and gave him a big hug. I said, like that, thank you. That was just the inspiration I needed to get out there and do my best job on this song. He said, well, ‘hey, I’m a fan.’ And to have your peers, well, not even your peers, but your musical idols and people you really admired telling you they admire your work. What can I say? It’s truly a great honour.”

Very flattering. How conscious were you as a teenager wanting to step into the avenue of being a Canadian musician, a heavy rock/metal artist? How cognizant were you that that might not work out? Did it ever enter your mind that you had a time limit of a year or two years, and if it didn’t work out, you would do something else?

“Well, yes. While my parents (and mostly my father) were extremely supportive of all my musical endeavours, I think there was a little bit of that living vicariously through my achievements with my dad. Still, I also was just sort of an uber-achiever. That was my thing when I was a kid. And so I got really good marks at school, and I had a couple of scholarships.

“So there was always in the back of my mind, well, I’ll put a year or two into this, and if it doesn’t start working out, I can always go back to university. So that was always in my back pocket. I had about a 48-month window to use up these scholarships. But it was a rough road in the beginning because I was treated differently. The ’80s were an extremely sexist era, so just getting your voice heard or being taken seriously as a woman was difficult.

“I was also treated like a little bit of a novelty (well, a lot of a novelty) at the beginning of my career. Some management missteps didn’t help us either, but things slowly started on an upward trajectory for me. Within a year, I had made my first album and received quite a bit of notoriety in Europe. So I think it maybe was the bit of the Europe component that kept me going because by the time I was about three years into my career, ’85, I was touring with Bon Jovi. I had an album that had gone gold in Belgium and Germany, and I was touring regularly. And so I kept going.

“But yes, there were definitely periods when I wondered, is this going to work out? And nobody starts out making a lot of money in rock n’ roll. So there were a lot of peanut butter sandwiches and a traveling hot plate on the road.”

You managed to ride the early wave of music video. I don’t think I would’ve known who Lee Aaron was unless I saw “Metal Queen” on those Friday night curated hour-long music video shows prior to Much Music. I’m curious how you feel that music videos bolstered your career. Do you feel like that helped you get a lot of exposure?

“Oh, absolutely. I feel extremely fortunate. It’s funny, I was talking to the Walk of Fame people about this, that it was such a unique and special time in the music industry in the early to late eighties because Much Music and MTV were that sort of format for being able to provide visuals for your music. And the video era was exploding, and I was really at the inception of that. So I feel that having a medium like music video to be able to sell my music and to be able to show people what I was all about in terms of it was integral to what I was doing.”

Could you imagine being 17 or 18 right now and trying to cut into the music industry? What do you think that would look like for you?

“I think social media is kind of getting in bed with the devil because you can’t really fight technology. So I’ve tried to learn to use it to my advantage at this stage of my life and career because people are just going to catapult beyond you if you don’t try to take advantage of that. But it also creates an environment where it’s just a sea of information.

“And starting out now, I feel like I was one of the last artists in the late ’80s and early ’90s that was able to take advantage of the video era. How many of the artists today are going to become legacy artists? Do you know what I mean?”

I think about that. Yeah.

“Real rock stars aren’t made like that anymore. And that timing really created the era of rockstar. And now, unless you’re doing something completely insane for attention on social media, I think it’s kind of hard to carve out a unique niche. Does that make sense? That’s just my opinion. Unless you’re doing something crazy, it just seems like – I always say to my husband that if I had some big controversy, I’d probably be a lot more famous, but I just can’t fabricate something. That’s not my personality. Do you know what I mean?”

Yes. And then you have to manage that controversy. And I think that comes with a whole lot of baggage.

“Exactly, yeah.”

Now, you’ve had numerous musicians within your ranks over the years, but I feel like your current band of your husband, John, and Dave and Sean, I feel like there’s something really magical happening with these people. Could you talk a little bit about your bandmates and what it’s like creating music with them right now?

“Absolutely. I love my band. Dave has been in the band for almost 20 years; my husband, 20 plus years. Sean has been in the band for coming up on a decade. After my ’80s and early ’90s incarnation of co-writing (I worked with John Albani for many years). I was always sort of looking for another group of people that would be more like just a cohesive unit of people who would be creative collaborators. Obviously, I’m the girl boss; I’m kind of at the helm of things, but I’m very open creatively to if someone brings a wonderful idea to the table. I’m all about having it become a seedling of an idea, and let’s work on this.

“And I have a wonderful band right now. Every time we get in a room together, magical things happen creatively. And not only are they wonderful players, but they’re also some of my favourite human beings on the planet. They’re intelligent; they’re wonderful people. And I mean, when you’ve been doing this 40 years, the last thing you want to do is go on the road with people that are difficult to get along with, and they’re like my brothers. So I feel really fortunate to have these guys as part of my team; I really do.”

Who’s the practical joker amongst them?

“The practical joker? Probably me. I’m the one that’s always sending them funny little videos and stuff, like, check this out. I sent them this video the other day of, or not a video, a little meme, and it was a picture of your jeans having that little teeny tiny little pocket. It said, ‘This little teeny tiny pocket in your jeans is where all the Spotify royalties go.’”

That’s about right.

“And they were all laughing about that. So yeah, probably me, actually.”

So what’s coming up then in September and December? There are two separate ceremonies for this induction. There’s the Rock of Fame at Massey Hall, which looks like it’s going to be amazing. And then there’s the actual Walk of Fame induction, which I think is in early December.

“So my understanding is that for the 25th anniversary, because I guess the Walk of Fame started initially in ’98, they wanted to do something to commemorate this 25th anniversary by doing something really unique and special. So they came up with this idea that there was this wonderful era of music bands and musicians that possibly didn’t get the due and the recognition that they deserved. And they decided to commemorate their 25th year by inducting some of these wonderful ’70s, ’80s, and, for me, early ’90s artists onto the Walk of Fame.

“And there’s going to be a ceremony just called Canada’s Rock of Fame. That’s September 28th for that induction. And there’s going to be; it’s already sold out. It’s a big show at Massey Hall. I don’t exactly know. They haven’t given me all the details, but I know there will be special guests, special VJ guests, special hosts, performances, and unique performances by artists to celebrate this thing.

“And then Canada’s Walk of Fame is another celebration they’re going to do in December again, which includes (I think) Avril Lavigne being inducted this year and how wonderful for her; she’s coming in for the arts and entertainment category. But they celebrate a lot of other different categories, media, actors, science, and technology in different sectors as well, in December.”

Canada’s Rock of Fame is the first of two induction ceremonies in 2023 as part of the organization’s 25th anniversary year events to celebrate the 13 rock legends inducted this year. The annual star-studded Canada’s Walk of Fame 25th Anniversary Celebration at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre will take place on December 2, 2023, honouring this year’s Inductees. A special broadcast will air at a later date on CTV.


I like mojitos, loud music, and David Lynch.