“Someone told me something that stuck with me: ‘You have to envision your life, and then go backwards.’ I’ve been living by that motto for a while, so I see where I need to be. Now I’m just backtracking and trying to get back up there.”—Bruno Mars.
Turn on any pop radio station in the summertime—or any season, for that matter—and one of Bruno Mars’ funky jams is bound to be one of the first songs blasting from the speakers. And why wouldn’t he be? Bruno Mars is one of the biggest names in pop music today. His slick dance moves, powerful voice, and heartfelt lyrics have won over music lovers all over the world. The journey to get to the top of the pop summit, however, was not easy. From humble beginnings in Hawaii to early struggles in the Los Angeles music scene, Mars had to claw and hustle for many years before becoming a ubiquitous presence on car radios, party playlists, and music awards shows. Here are some facts about the immensely popular entertainer that definitely demonstrate his 24-karat magic appeal.
Bruno Mars Facts
42. Childhood Nickname That Stuck
Young Peter was given the nickname Bruno by his father due to his resemblance to Bruno Sammartino—one of the biggest names in professional wrestling in the 1960s and 1970s. How a child was thought to look like Sammartino is beyond me…. During a tour stop in Pittsburgh in 2017, Mars finally met his namesake backstage and even took a photo with the wrestling legend and one of his championship belts. If I have to be honest, I still don’t exactly see the resemblance…is it the smile?
41. Tribute to an Inspiration
At the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, Mars performed a tribute to recently deceased singer Amy Winehouse. He performed a touching rendition of “Valerie,” which was originally performed by The Zutons but was popularized by Winehouse’s cover version that she collaborated on with producer Mark Ronson. In a 2012 interview, Mars expressed how much Winehouse meant to his career. Commenting on the power of Winehouse’s second and last album Back to Black, Mars said, “I’ve always wanted to make music like that—that could be spread out and [not] pigeon-holed to one thing.”
40. Even Good Without the Instrumentals
One of the really interesting aspects of the 2012 film Pitch Perfect is how its soundtrack provides a snapshot of the pop music scene in the late 2000s/early 2010s. That’s why it’s no surprise that the film features two Mars affiliated songs. The main a cappella group in the movie, The Barden Bellas, perform the Mars hit “Just the Way You Are” in one of their medleys. Their rivals The Treblemakers perform the Flo Rida song “Right Round” in their regional qualifier. “Right Round” was co-written by Bruno Mars and his Smeezingtons partner Jeff Lawrence.
39. Diverse Ancestry
Mars’ parents are Peter Hernandez and Bernadette San Pedro Bayot. His father was originally from Brooklyn, New York and is of Puerto Rican and Ashkenazi Jewish descent, while his mother was born in the Philippines and moved to Hawaii with her family as a young girl.
38. Musical Siblings
Mars is one of six children and all of his siblings are also involved in the music industry. His brother Eric is the drummer for Mars’ touring band The Hooligans. His sisters Jaime, Tiara, Tahiti, and Presley are members of a pop group called The Lylas.
37. La La Land Calling
Mars’ sister played one of his demo tapes for an A&R executive at Dr. Dre’s record label Aftermath Entertainment. The executive, Mike Lynn, was impressed and encouraged Mars to move to Los Angeles. After graduating from high school, a 17-year-old Mars left Hawaii for Los Angeles in hopes of starting a career in the music industry.
36. Early Struggles
Mars’ initial years in Los Angeles were not as successful as he would have hoped. He initially signed with Motown Records, but unfortunately, the deal did not result in any releases and he was subsequently released. He would later meet with representatives from Atlantic Records, but they decided to wait three years to finally sign him.
35. Paying The Bills
Like most aspiring actors and musicians that come to Hollywood, Mars had to hold down a secondary job. In a 2010 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Mars revealed that in order to make rent he took on DJing gigs. However, this endeavor was not a success, as Mars admitted, “I didn’t know how to DJ. I lost that job pretty quick.”
34. Nothing to Smeeze At
Unable to get his singing career off the ground, Mars would team up with Philip Lawrence to write and workshop songs. They would face many more rejections from record labels, but they were later approached to write music for the recently reunited boy band Menudo. They were also asked to contribute to the Flo Rida track “Right Round,” which would become a worldwide hit, including hitting number one on the Hot 100 in the United States. The duo would then collaborate with Ari Levine, who provided studio space and equipment. The three formed an official songwriting and production team known as The Smeezingtons, and their songwriting/production work would soon become highly sought after.
33. Gaining Traction
The Smeezingtons became highly in-demand and would help write and produce music for a variety of artists. One of their early successes was the song “Get Sexy” for the British group Sugababes. They also worked on K’Naan’s “Wavin’ Flag,” which would become a worldwide sensation due to its use in Coca-Cola’s official partnership campaign with the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
32. Featured Musician
Mars’s breakthrough as a singer came in 2010 when he appeared as a featured vocalist on B.o.B’s “Nothin’ on You” and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire.” Both songs were produced and collaborated on by The Smeezingtons and would become major hits. “Billionaire” reached number four on the Hot 100 and “Nothin’ On You” topped the Hot 100 charts for two weeks. This was just a taste of what was to come for Mars, though.
31. An Album of His Own
The continued success of the records produced and written by The Smeezingtons, especially the ones featuring vocals by Mars, led to an official deal with Atlantic and Elektra Records for a Mars solo career. In May 2010, Mars released a four-track EP entitled It’s Better If You Don’t Understand. In October 2010, Mars released his debut album Doo Wop and Hooligans. The album was a massive commercial success, topping album charts in Canada and the United Kingdom and hitting number three in the United States.
30. Early Hits
Mars’s debut album Doo Wop and Hooligans produced many hit singles. “Grenade” and “Just the Way You Are” both topped the Hot 100 and “The Lazy Song” hit number four. All three of these singles would also reach number one on the UK charts.
29. Hitting the Road
Performing live came easy to Mars, considering he spent a lot of his childhood on stage as part of his family’s group The Love Notes. As a solo artist, Mars’s first experience with touring was being the opening act for Maroon 5’s 2010 Hands All Over tour. He would later co-headline a series of shows with Travie McCoy in Europe. His first official world tour lasted more than a year and included a leg where he co-headlined with Janelle Monàe.
28. YouTube Sensation
A big part of Mars’s popularity can be attributed to his music videos, where his charismatic dance skills are on full display. Many of his music videos have racked up more than a billion views on YouTube. In fact, the music video for “Uptown Funk”—featuring Mars and Mark Ronson—is the sixth most viewed video in YouTube history with over three billion views. The fact that it may be the catchiest song of all time can’t hurt either.
27. His Very First Song
Mars has made a career out of writing and performing songs lovingly addressed to women. That songwriting bug came to him at a very young age. The first song he ever wrote was when he was only four years old and it was written for the woman in his life—his mom. The song was entitled “I Love You Mom” and includes lyrics like “My mommy helps me with my voice/ ’Cause a superstar singer is my first choice/ I love you, Mom, you are my favorite girl/ I love you.”
26. Grammy Trifecta
Mars has the rare distinction of winning the three major categories—Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year—at a single Grammy Awards ceremony. Mars accomplished this feat at the 60th Grammy Awards in 2018, where he won Album of the Year for 24K Magic, Record of the Year for “24K Magic,” and Song of the Year for “That’s What I Like.” The only other artists to accomplish this feat are Paul Simon, Carole King, Christopher Cross, Eric Clapton, The Dixie Chicks, and Adele, who’s done it twice, of course.
25. A Voice Like a Bird
Mars provided the voice for the blue macaw Roberto in the 2014 animated film Rio 2. He also performed the song “Welcome Back” for the film’s soundtrack. Rio 2 and Honeymoon in Vegas remain Mars’s only film credits—so far.
24. SNL Double Duty
On October 20, 2012, Mars pulled double duty by being the host and musical guest on an episode of Saturday Night Live. Mars has also appeared as solely a musical guest on the stage at Studio 8H three other times, most recently in 2016.
23. Super Bowl Halftime Show Veteran
In 2014, Mars was selected to be the main performer at the halftime show of Super Bowl XLVIII. His set list included an appearance by Red Hot Chili Peppers. Together they performed the band’s hit song “Give It Away.” Mars didn’t have to wait long for his second Super Bowl halftime show. Along with Beyoncé and Mark Ronson, Mars made an appearance at the halftime show of Super Bowl 50, which was headlined by Coldplay.
22. Height is Just a Number
Mars’ overall showmanship and stage presence has often been compared to other lively performers like James Brown and Prince. Another thing he has in common with those legendary artists is that they are all rather short—Mars stands at 5’5″. But that lack of height is easily ignored when factoring in his powerful voice, silky dance moves, and strong command of an audience.
21. Avoiding Stereotypes
Mars goes by his stage name instead of his birth name of Peter Hernandez to avoid being stereotyped. He revealed to GQ magazine that when he first moved to Los Angeles, many record companies assumed from his last name that he was a Latino artist who could perform in Spanish. Going by Mars allowed him to avoid that confusion and pursue the music career he had envisioned for himself.
20. In the Footsteps of JB
In November 2017, Mars starred in his first primetime television special. Bruno Mars: 24K Magic Live at the Apollo was filmed at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem and aired on CBS. Performing at the Apollo was very special for Mars as James Brown, one of his idols, performed there in 1962, a performance that was recorded for Brown’s seminal 1963 album Live at the Apollo.
19. Grammys Galore!
In a career that’s been barely a decade-long, Mars has amassed a staggering amount of Grammys. So far he’s won 11 of the awards, with six of them coming in 2018 alone. In all, he’s received 27 nominations. Based on his continued trajectory, it is safe to assume that these numbers will only increase.
18. Michelle Obama: Superfan
Mars has legions of fans all over the world. However his most famous fan may be the former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. Obama danced to “Uptown Funk” at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll in 2015 and would also dance to the tune with Ellen DeGeneres on her daytime talk show. Mars himself was invited to perform at the White House in 2015 as part of the official Fourth of July celebrations. In 2017, Mars and Obama reunited backstage at his Washington DC concert, where Mars presented the former First Lady with a personalized tour jersey.
17. Straight from the President’s Mouth
One of the top viral videos of 2015 featured then-President of the United States Barack Obama singing “Uptown Funk.” The president wasn’t actually singing of course—the video actually spliced a mix of Obama’s speeches to give the illusion that he was singing the lyrics to the hit song. The viral clip was created by popular YouTube channel Baracksdubs.
16. Hangin’ With Elmo
Mars paid a visit to Sesame Street in 2011. With the help of some of the Street’s most famous residents, including Elmo and Cookie Monster, Mars performed the very inspirational “Don’t Give Up,” which teaches children the importance of persevering and believing in yourself. Mars also made a cameo in the song “Brushy Brush,” which was featured in the 2012 Sesame Street dental care PSA Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me.
15. Showing off His Ink
Mars has four tattoos on his arms. He has his mother’s name Bernadette tattooed on his right shoulder, and his left bicep is inked with “Pete’s Boy,” in reference to his father Peter. He also has tattoos of an anchor on his right forearm and a gypsy on his left forearm.
14. Mars’ Best Friend
Mars and his girlfriend Jessica Caban got their first dog in 2012. The adorable little puppy is named Geronimo and Mars shared the exciting news with his fans on Twitter. Geronimo is still by Mars and Caban’s side today, though he’s a whole lot bigger!
13. Before Bruno, There Was Peter
Although the world knows him as Bruno Mars, his actual birth name is Peter Gene Hernandez. He was born on October 6, 1985, in Honolulu, Hawaii and was raised in the iconic neighborhood of Waikiki.
12. A Truly World Tour
Mars is currently in the midst of his 24K Magic World Tour. The massive tour will see Mars perform concerts on six continents over 11 legs for a total of 210 shows. The concert has already grossed over $230 million. Opening acts on the tour have included Anderson Paak, Dua Lipa, Camila Cabello, Cardi B, and the dance troupe Jabbawockeez.
11. His Biggest Hit
Perhaps the biggest hit of Mars’ career is “Uptown Funk,” a Mark Ronson track where he provides the main vocals. The song spent 14 weeks at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100. It also topped singles charts in Australia, Canada, Colombia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and others. It won Record of the Year at the Grammys and is considered to be one of the best selling singles of all time.
10. Entrepreneurial Spirit
Mars has spread is wings beyond the music world by being a co-founder of the award-winning rum brand SelvaRey Rum. The liquor comes in two varieties—a white version and a chocolate flavored version. SelvaRey is distilled in Panama using local products.
9. Feeling the Sting
When Mars’ hit 2012 single “Locked Out of Heaven” was released, fans and music critics alike couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Mars’ vocals on the track and the reggae-influenced vocal style of Police frontman Sting. Things came full circle at the Grammy Awards ceremony the following year, when Sting accompanied Mars to perform “Locked Out of Heaven.” The performance was part of a tribute to reggae legend Bob Marley, and it also featured Rihanna and Marley’s sons Ziggy and Damian.
8. Wedding Staple
A wedding without a Bruno Mars tune is practically unheard of these days. According to data from music streaming platform Spotify, Mars’ songs are some of the most popular at weddings. Their list of the top ten songs featured on wedding playlists includes Mars’ “Marry You” at number two and “Uptown Funk” at number four. Mars is the only artist to appear in the top ten twice.
7. Set in Stone
In 2016, Mars received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Mars received the honor in the same class as fellow music icons Cyndi Lauper, Adam Levine, and LL Cool J. Considering his early struggles trying to break into the music industry in Los Angeles, the accomplishment is especially poignant.
6. Typhoon Relief
In 2014, Mars donated $100,000 to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda that ravaged the Philippines in late 2013. Mars has a connection to the Philippines, as his late mother Bernadette was from the island nation. He also became very acquainted with the country during his first world tour. Furthermore, Mars also participated in a star-studded album called Songs for the Philippines, the proceeds of which were donated to typhoon relief efforts.
5. Bruno Getting Animated
Mars appeared as himself in a 2012 episode of the animated series The Cleveland Show. In the episode, entitled “Menace II Secret Society,” Mars is a member of a fictional, Illuminati-inspired hip-hop secret society. The episode also featured will.i.am, Nicki Minaj, Questlove appearing as themselves and Kanye West reprising his recurring role of Kenny West.
4. Helping Out Flint
In a 2017 concert in Auburn Hills, Michigan, Mars announced that he was donating $1 million to the relief effort for the water crisis in the nearby town of Flint. In an official statement regarding the donation, Mars wrote, “Ongoing challenges remain years later for Flint residents, and it’s important that we don’t forget our brothers and sisters affected by this disaster. As people, especially as Americans, we need to stand together to make sure something like this never happens in any community ever again.”
3. This One’s for Mom
Mars’s mom Bernadette passed away suddenly in 2013 following a brain aneurysm. Mars paid tribute to his late mother when he performed at the halftime show of Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014. The drum kit that he performed a solo on was adorned with an image of a ribbon with Bernadette’s name wrapped around a heart.
2. The (Little) King of Rock and Roll
As a boy, Mars would follow in the footsteps of his uncle and became an Elvis impersonator. At the age of four, Mars would begin to accompany his family’s band The Love Notes, often performing up to five shows a week. Some of young Mars’ early brushes with fame included being a halftime performer at the 1990 Aloha Bowl, and a cameo in the 1992 film Honeymoon in Vegas, where he played the familiar role of an Elvis impersonator—albeit a tiny, 7-year-old one. Bizarrely, when he revealed his past as a childhood Elvis impersonator on Twitter, posting a picture of himself dressed as the King when he was just 4 years old, he found himself in the middle of a lawsuit. The photographer who had taken the photo claimed that she still owned the copyright to it. All that he had done was post it on Twitter. Some people will sue for anything!
1. Getting Into Trouble
In 2010, just when everything was seemingly going right for Mars, he suffered a pretty embarrassing setback when he was arrested for cocaine possession in Las Vegas in September of that year. Mars paid a $5,000 fine, performed 200 hours of community service, and had to undergo a drug-counseling program. In a 2013 interview with GQ, Mars expressed regret for the shameful incident. If I was out $5,000 and 200 hours, I’d regret it too. He also came to the regret his mug shot, in which he shows a huge smile, claiming that he had no idea what he was doing at the time that the camera clicked.