Born Karen Greening in Belleville, Ontario, she began singing in musical productions at the age of five. Her first big exposure was at 15, when she sang Debbie Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” on a Toronto area cable television variety program. She was asked to join a band called Lee Aaron while she was still in high school in Brampton, playing the sax and keyboards. At the age of 17, Aaron was in a car collision, and although surgery wasn’t required. her nose was broken and face was badly bruised. Years later, Canadian Musician magazine had to print a retraction to a story they’d done on her, where they mistakenly wrote she had a complete facial reconstruction.
While touring practically every dimly lit biker bar in southern Ontario, she was discovered while playing a summer outdoor festival by manager Rob Donnolly in 1980, who brought her centre stage and soon fired the band, replacing the members with ‘real’ musicians, and talked her into using the stage name of Lee Aaron. She signed with his Freedom Records and released her independant debut, THE LEE AARON PROJECT in 1982 as a European only import. With Donnolly behind the controls, it was a modest “who’s who” of Canadian rock, featuring Rick Santers‘ band as back-up as well as Rik Emmett‘s helping hand on “Under Your Spell”. Santers‘ blazing guitar riffs and tight hooks were unmistakeable in “Night Riders” and “Lonely For Your Love”. Also noteable were the cover of Willie Dixon’s blues classic “I Just Wanna Make Love To You” and the screaming duet with Buzz Shearman, then lead singer for Moxy, “Texas Outlaw”.
She signed with Attic Records in ’84, who re-released the debut album that same year, adding a version of “Under The Stars” recorded in Toronto’s El Mocambo Club. As a promotional stunt, she flew to New York and posed naked for OUI magazine just in time for the release of METAL QUEEN later that same year, a move she later regretted and fired her manager because of. But done for the very modest sum of $25,000, the record marked a lasting writing relationship with guitarist John Albani, formerly of Wrabit. It was Albani that recommended production be handled by Paul Gross, whose credits included Wrabit and Saga.
The video for the title track was controversial, receiving an R rating from the BBC in England and thus banned. MuchMusic however was in still in its infancy and desperately needed the Canadian content, so they played it and gained Aaron the much needed exposure. From the song’s gothic opening to the fade-out of the final track, “We Will Be Rocking”, the album never let up. “Shake It Up” delivered a slick pop-metal sound held together by clever guitar hooks while “Deceiver” showcased Aaron’s vocal prowess. The formation of a steady backup band allowed her to launch a cross-Canada tour of smaller venues and was met with countless sell-outs, then piggy-backed on tours with Motley Crue, Ratt, and Bon Jovi across the US. But the band returned home early the next year broke and looking for anew direction.
With the label pressuring her for a follow-up album, CALL OF THE WILD was released in the spring of ’85. Produced in part by Bob Ezrin of Alice Cooper and KISS fame, it showed a sophistication in the arrangements, featuring Jerry Mercer of Mashmakhan and April Wine on drums and Spider Sinnaeve of Streetheart and later Loverboy on bass. With keyboards more predominant in tracks like “Burning Love” and the changing rhythms of “Line of Fire”, the record was definitely Canadian rock’s most under-rated of the year. The record also featured the ballsy “Beat ‘Em Up” by Rob Halligan, (later re-done by Blue Oyster Cult … not as well though).
A hastily-put-together new band found themselves opening up for the likes of Bon Jovi, Uriah Heep, Krokus and Kiss all over Europe for the next several months. Although she was initially pencilled in to also open for Blue Oyster Cult while overseas, she had to back out so she could headline her tour of West Germany that winter. She inked a European distribution deal with Virgin subsidiary, 10 Records, in England that year, but it was short-lived when the label declared bankruptcy early in ’86.
1987’s second self-titled album marked a noticeable shift in attitude for Lee Aaron. Gone was the sultry and hot image, replaced with a more toned-down look. With three tracks co-written by Joe Lynn Turner of Rainbow fame including the single “Only Human”, and the ballad “Dream With Me” co-written by Dan Hill, the record was obviously tailored towards more radio play. Aaron again ventured into Europe and was again met with full houses, as was the case back home and in the States. In 1988 she also cameo’d on The Scorpions’ “Rhythm of Love.”
BODYROCK was released two full years later and the extra time in the studios with producer Brian Allen of Rose and Toronto fame resulted in gold. With the lead-off single “Whatcha Do To My Body”, she took suggestive rock videos to a new climax while scoring her biggest single ever. Still geared for FM radio, the record had less experimental keyboards and more of a simple, no-frills approach. “Nasty Boyz” and “Hands On” were further examples of Aaron’s ability to shift gears without actually slowing down, as was her cover of Montrose’s “Rock Candy”. The record would go on to eventually becoming her most successful, selling nearly a quarter of a million copies. She also received two Juno nominations the following year, one for Female Vocalist Of The Year and one for Best Video of The Year for “Whatcha Do To My Body”. Fourteen months on the road saw her headline shows throughout North America, Europe and Japan.
1991 saw SOME GIRLS DO hit the stores. Complimenting its predecessor, the album continued Aaron’s assault on your senses. The title-track along with other cuts like “Love With Sex” helped push the record gold and further cement her as Canada’s queen of hard rock. Also noteable on the record was the cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Tell Me Something Good,” and “Dangerous” – co-written by Jim Vallance, and “Motor City Boy” which featured a voice over by Toronto DJ John Derringer and written about her then-husband and bass player Greg Doyle. Another North American tour ensued, but disputes between Aaron and Attic Records caused a split between the two later that year. POWERLINE was released the next year and was your typical greatest hits album.
When EMOTIONAL RAIN was released in ’94, things had changed. Now in complete control of her own destiny, the record was her first on her own label, Hip Chick Records, and she’d just gone through what she described as a messy divorce. Still, the new album contained some of her strongest material to date, the audiences seemed to have changed. Drawing on inner-emotions, the new record seemed too sophisticated for the majority of the general public, and the critics. Despite the tight riffs and flawless layerings, with the exception of her most die-hard of fans, the crowds just didn’t seem to get it. Cuts like the title-track stood on their own, but the album failed to live up to the label execs’ expectations. Though bussling with maturity and sophistication, the execs just couldn’t seem to find a way to market what is easily one of her most under-rated pieces.
Aaron teamed up with some friends after the EMOTIONAL RAIN tour and released a project under the guise of 2Preciious in ’96, featuring slick licks and smooth moods in tracks like “Crawl,” “Superbitch,” “Black Metal Jesus,” and “Dying Star,” among others. Although warmly embraced by her die hardest of fans and still a great pop record living up to her own strict standards, it was a far cry from the ‘metal queen’ image.
Always an avid jazz fan, she wooed fans with her ‘second love’, releasing the critically acclaimed SLICK CHICK in 2000 with her band, The Swingin’ Bar Flies. Featuring the title track, “He Ain’t Got Rhythm” and the sassy “Evil Gal Blues”, she not only gave her die-hard fans something new to rave about, she picked up a few new ones as well. Taking time for a personal life, she backed out of the limelight in 2002, but still made a guest appearance back in the rock world, when she was featured on Demon’s Drive remake of Suzi Quatro’s “She’s In Love With You”. In 2003, POWERLINE was re-released with the same track listing but a different cover.
A year later, EMOTIONAL RAIN was also re-released with a new cover. Now devoting her music career solely to jazz, she released BEAUTIFUL THINGS in 2004, which featured the title track, the lead-off “Museum,” “Joan of Arc,” “Heart Shaped Hole and “Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi.”. She returned to her rock roots in 2008 and began switching back and forth between intimate jazz shows and tours with her rock and roll machine. Later that year she released the definitive DVD collection, a 3 disc set entitled RARITIES – STUDIO AND LIVE 1981 – 2008, which included tv performances, live clips, interviews and promo videos.