Who Is Bruno Mars?
Singer-songwriter Bruno Mars began to find success in the early 2000s by writing songs for popular artists, including K'Naan's "Wavin' Flag." After several years as one of pop music's premier songwriters, Mars broke out as a singer in his own right with the 2010 hit "Nothin' on You." Other popular songs by Mars include "Just the Way You Are" (2010), "Locked Out of Heaven" (2012) and the Grammy-winning tracks "Uptown Funk" (2015) and "That's What I Like" (2017).
Born Peter Gene Hernandez on October 8, 1985, in Honolulu, Hawaii, singer-songwriter Bruno Mars grew up in a very musical family. His father, Pete, was a Latin percussionist from Brooklyn, and his mother, Bernadette ("Bernie"), was a singer. Mars received his nickname, "Bruno," while he was still a baby. "The name Bruno came from baby times," older sister Jamie explained. "Bruno was always so confident, independent, really strong-willed and kind of a brute—hence the name Bruno—and it kind of just stuck."
In Waikiki Beach, Mars's family performed a Las Vegas-style revue that included Motown hits, doo-wop melodies and celebrity impersonations. Growing up around entertainers, Mars began picking up musical instruments from early childhood. "I've always had a drum set, a piano, a guitar ... and never got trained to play. It was just always there," he later recalled. "That's just how I learned, just being surrounded by it my whole life." At the age of 4, he joined the family musical act as an Elvis impersonator and quickly become one of the stars of the show. He continued to perform with his family throughout his childhood, and as he approached adolescence he added Michael Jackson to his impersonation repertoire.
Move to Los Angeles
Mars attended Roosevelt High School, where he and several friends formed a band, the School Boys, performing classic oldies hits alongside his family's act at the Ilikai Hotel in Honolulu. Mars credits his fearless stage presence to his unusual childhood. "Performing from such a young age just got me so comfortable on stage," he said. "Growing up performing—that was normal for me. Everyone in my family sings, plays instruments. It's what we do."
After graduating from high school, Mars decided to leave Hawaii for Los Angeles, California. Over his first few years in L.A., he struggled to make a breakthrough in the music industry. And especially because he had performed so frequently while growing up in Honolulu, Mars grew frustrated with waiting for his career to move forward. It was during this period that Mars first turned to songwriting. "I only started writing songs when I moved up to L.A. because when I was in Hawaii, I never really needed to," he recalled. "But it stemmed from just learning that you have to do everything by yourself. It's not like what you see in movies, where you walk into a record company and you're given all these great songs to sing. You have to write the song the world is going to want to hear and play it over and over again. I learned that the hard way here in L.A."
A friend introduced Mars to songwriter Phillip Lawrence, who agreed to help Mars compose material. They presented a song they had written and recorded to a record label, who liked it but wanted one of their own artists to perform it. Mars recalled, "We were so broke and struggling, we had to do what we had to do, so we ended up selling the song." Initially, Mars was disappointed, but it proved to be an awakening experience. "The light bulb went off," he explained. "I decided to push the artist thing aside and get into the business this way. We can write songs and produce songs, so we just really focused our energy into writing for other artists. That's how it all began."
By the early 2000s, Mars had begun to find success by writing songs for several popular artists, including Flo Rida's smash hit "Right 'Round," Brandy's "Long Distance" and Travie McCoy's "Billionaire." Mars also produced and co-wrote K'Naan's "Wavin' Flag," Coca-Cola's theme song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
After several years as one of the pop music industry's premier songwriters, Mars finally broke out as a singer in his own right with the 2010 hit "Nothin' on You." The song was written for the Atlantic Records rapper B.o.B., but the record label decided to enlist Mars himself to croon the heartfelt chorus. The track proved an enormous hit, skyrocketing to No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart, and instantly transforming Bruno Mars from a behind-the-scenes composer into a pop performer.
'Doo-Wops & Hooligans'
Several months later, Mars released his first solo single, "Just the Way You Are," from his debut studio album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans, released in October 2010. The song quickly proved to be another hit for the artist, putting him back at the top of the Billboard singles chart. Additionally, Doo-Wops & Hooligans reached No. 3 on the Billboard album charts, and its follow-up singles, "Grenade" and "The Lazy Song," cracked the Top 10 on the singles chart. Mars scored another hit with "It Will Rain," a song that he contributed to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 soundtrack in late 2011.
Mars went on to pick up several Grammy Award nods for his debut effort, including for Album of the Year. While he went home empty-handed, Mars gave a career-building performance at the 2012 telecast. His energetic performance of his 1960s-influenced song "Runaway Baby" (2010) had even the most jaded music industry veterans moving in their seats. Mars showed himself to be a high-energy live performer and did an homage to the late James Brown in his act.
Continued Success: 'Unorthodox Jukebox'
In December 2012, Mars released his second studio album, Unorthodox Jukebox, featuring yet another gamut of hit songs and quickly meeting with both commercial and critical acclaim. The album's lead single, "Locked Out of Heaven," topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six consecutive weeks, won an MTV Award for Best Music Video and landed in the Top 10 in 20 countries. The project's second release, "When I Was Your Man," reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the song "Treasure" won an MTV Award for Best Choreography in 2013. In 2014 Mars also won a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album.
The hits continued for Mars as seen with his collaboration with producer/songwriter/musician Mark Ronson. The two had a big No. 1 tune with their dance jam "Uptown Funk," from Ronson's 2015 album Uptown Special.
Super Bowl and Beyond
In September 2013, news broke that Mars was selected to be a part of the half-time entertainment at the next Super Bowl. This honor put him in the same league as such past performers Madonna and Justin Timberlake. Mars returned to the Super Bowl stage in February 2016, performing at the half-time show with Beyoncé Knowles and Coldplay. Just a week later, Beyoncé presented a jubilant Mars and Ronson the Record of the Year Grammy for "Uptown Funk."
Grammy-Winning '24K Magic'
Mars continued his immensely successful run with the release of his third studio effort, 24K Magic, in November 2016. The album included the catchy title track, a retro-tinted dance number in the vein of "Uptown Funk," as well as the sultry "That's What I Like," which climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Mars cleaned up at the 2018 Grammy Awards, winning in all six categories for which he drew nominations, including Record of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the Year. He also delivered a quality performance alongside Cardi B for his latest single, "Finesse," cementing his standing as arguably the top all-around act in the business.
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