Huey Lewis Biography

Singer(1950–)
Rock musician Huey Lewis is the face and lead singer of the band Huey Lewis and The News, one of the biggest-selling pop groups of the 1980s.

Synopsis

Huey Lewis was born in New York City in 1950. Lewis cut his teeth in a host of bars around California's Bay Area before he and his band, Huey Lewis and The News, became one of pop's best-selling groups. Lewis' two biggest albums, Sports (1983) and Fore! (1986), featured a string of Top 10 singles like "I Want a New Drug" and "The Heart of Rock and Roll." Lewis and The News continue to tour.

Early Years

Singer and harmonica player Huey Lewis was born Hugh Anthony Cregg III on July 5, 1950, in New York City. The older of two boys, Lewis was raised in California's Bay Area, where his father, a jazz drummer and radiologist, and his mother, a commercial artist, moved their young family when Lewis was 4 years old.

California life proved to be interesting for the Creggs. Lewis' parents were eccentrics and hardly career-minded. His mother, especially, had a particular disdain for conventional life and fell in deep with the beatnik crowd, palling around with Allen Ginsberg and others.

After his folks divorced when he was 12, Lewis was packed off to New Jersey for boarding school. It was a trying time for the young boy, who was clearly bright but shared his father's passion for music.

A gifted math student—he scored a perfect 800 on the math portion of the SAT—Lewis was accepted at Cornell University, where planned to study engineering. But tired of school, and taking the advice of his father, who pushed him to take some time off, Lewis postponed his college plans and backpacked around Europe.

After a year away, he returned to the United States and enrolled at Cornell. But this college experience proved short. After six months of classes, he moved back to the Bay Area and started working odd jobs while trying to navigate the hardships of making it as a musician.

Lewis eventually hooked on as a vocalist and harmonica player with a group called Clover. In the mid-1970s the band, along with Lewis, relocated to Europe, where it enjoyed some modest success. By 1979, however, Lewis was back in the United States, jamming in local bars around the Bay Area with bassist Mario Cipollina, guitarist and saxophonist Johnny Colla, and drummer Bill Gibson. Not long after, the group added lead guitarist Chris Hayes and began calling itself Huey Lewis and The News.

Pop Stardom

After inking a record contract with Chrysalis, Lewis and the band released a self-titled debut in 1980. It received only a tepid commercial response. The band's 1982 effort, Picture This, gave The News more of a following and cracked the Top 20.

For the group's third album, Sports (1983), Lewis managed to convince Chrysalis to give him total creative control. Intent on creating a collection of hits, Lewis produced a record that far exceeded even his own expectations.

Featuring Top 10 singles like "The Heart of Rock and Roll," "I Want a New Drug," "Heart and Soul" and "If This Is It," Sports went on to sell more than 7 million records and put Lewis and his band in heavy rotation both on radio and on MTV.

In an era dominated by pop icons like Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson, Huey Lewis was a full-blown star. In 1985, The News clocked its first No. 1 single with "The Power of Love," from the soundtrack to the movie Back to the Future, starring Michael J. Fox.

"It was over the top," Lewis later said of the stardom. "You couldn't go to a shopping mall, airports were a problem. Any place with a lot of people was a problem," he says.

Even Huey Lewis–sounding songs began popping up on the airwaves. In 1984, Lewis sued Ray Parker Jr., alleging that Parker's hit single "Ghostbusters" sounded exactly like "I Want a New Drug." The suit was settled out of court, and Lewis has never been allowed to talk about its outcome.

While the group's fourth studio album, Fore! (1986), offered up another string of singles, the band began to drop back from the center of the pop universe in the late 1980s. Critics blasted the 1988 release Small World, which strayed considerably from The News' expected formula of pop love songs.

"I felt it was time for a change: more international, more challenging, more musical," Lewis explained, just before the album hit record stores. "We needed to do something that we'd feel proud of," he said. Later records like Hard at Play (1991) proved to be commercial flops.

Recent Years

Even as their pop stardom has receded farther and farther into the past, Lewis and the News have continued to tour and play music. In 2013, the group released a 30th-anniversary edition of Sports. The reissue received considerable press attention, even landing Lewis and The News on an episode of Dancing with the Stars, where they performed "The Heart of Rock and Roll."

Personal Life

Lewis, who is divorced and lives in the Bay Area, is the father of two grown children: a son, Austin, and a daughter, Kelly.

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