At the age of 19, he earned an ARCT in classical piano performance from The Royal Conservatory of Music, in Toronto, Ontario. Upon graduation, he enjoyed modest local success with the band Rhinegold in 1976.
After the band broke up five years later, Gowan began what was to become a successful solo career under the stage name Gowan, releasing his first album under that name in 1982, which was produced by Rob Freeman and featured Kim Mitchell of Max Webster on guitar. This album contained the singles “Victory”, “Give In” and “Keep Up the Fight”. His 1985 album Strange Animal was his commercial breakthrough in Canada, produced by British producer David Tickle and featuring a more ‘theatrical’ Gowan, backed by Peter Gabriel’s rhythm section players Tony Levin and Jerry Marotta. The album spawned the hit singles “A Criminal Mind”, “(You’re a) Strange Animal”, “Guerilla Soldier” and “Cosmetics”. His 1987 follow up Great Dirty World gave him another hit single with “Moonlight Desires,” featuring Jon Anderson (from Yes) on backing vocals as well as the fan favourite “Dedication”.
1990’s Lost Brotherhood, recorded at Metalworks Studios in Mississauga, Ontario, had a harder rock sound, and featured such players as Red Rider member Ken Greer, former Coney Hatch guitarist Steve Shelski and Rush’s Alex Lifeson. It produced the singles “Lost Brotherhood”, “All the Lovers in the World”, and “Out of a Deeper Hunger”. This was Gowan’s first album for Anthem Records and his first US release.
A few bars from “The Dragon” was heard playing on a car radio in the 1990 movie “Navy Seals” and appears on the original motion picture soundtrack.
He released the more acoustic …but you can call me Larry in 1993 under his full name, returning to the Canadian pop charts with “When There’s Time for Love”, “Soul’s Road” and “Dancing on My Own Ground”. He subsequently released The Good Catches Up in 1995, which featured the single “Guns and God”, which received moderate airplay in Canada. Also that same year, Gowan was part of an all-star lineup at Toronto’s Massey Hall to celebrate Ronnie Hawkins’ 60th birthday, as documented on the album Let It Rock, sharing the stage with veteran rockers Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and The Band. In 1997, Gowan released two live CDs: ‘Sololive – No Kilt Tonight’ containing a rendition of Ragtime’s classic “King Chanticleer Rag”, and Au Québec with a cover of Harmonium’s “Pour un instant” as well as his first composition in French, “Stéphanie”, for his fan base in Quebec.
In 1997, Gowan released “Healing Waters” as a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales after her death. “Healing Waters” was officially an unreleased song from Gowan, though it was used in its original form, in the 1995 Jeff Wincottmovie, When the Bullet Hits the Bone.
His song “A Criminal Mind” was covered in 2005 by Canadian hip-hop artist Maestro; Gowan appears in the video and his vocals are sampled on the track. The song was also covered by Canadian gypsy jazz music group The Lost Fingers. The song was sampled in a song performed by Akon and Freck Billionaire.
He also guest-starred on the Canadian animated comedy series Chilly Beach.
In February 2006, Gowan did four orchestra-accompanied concerts in London, Ontario and Kitchener, Ontario. Also in 2006, his home was featured on MTV’s Cribs.
In March 2010, Gowan released “Return of the Strange Animal”, a remastered version of 1985’s “Strange Animal” plus a making-of documentary and music videos on DVD. In May 2010, Gowan performed two solo shows in support of the 25th anniversary of the “Strange Animal” album.
In May 2012, Gowan re-issued a remastered version of 1987’s “Great Dirty World”.
As of 2012, Gowan is currently recording a new solo album which he hopes to have completed sometime in 2013.
On 13 October 2013 Gowan played a solo concert, titled ‘In Kilt Tonight’ at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, Canada. All proceeds were donated to McDermott House Canada, a charitable organization.