Simon Le Bon Biography

Singer(1958–)
Simon Le Bon was lead singer of the 1980s pop group Duran Duran, known for recording the hit songs “Hungry Like the Wolf,” "Notorious," and "The Reflex," among others.

Synopsis

Simon Le Bon was born on October 27, 1958, in Bushey, England. In 1980, he auditioned to join the rock group Duran Duran. Before long, Duran Duran became one of the biggest music acts of the decade. By the late 1980s, Duran Duran’s popularity began to wane. A few years after the band's resurgence with 1993's The Wedding Album, Le Bon branched out to work on solo projects. The group reunited in 2001. In 2007, Duran Duran released their album, Red Carpet Massacre.

Early Life

Singer and songwriter Simon Le Bon was born on October 27, 1958, in Bushey, England. As the lead singer of Duran Duran, Simon Le Bon became one of the leading pop icons of the 1980s. As a child, he sang in a church choir but was even more interested in acting. Le Bon started out as a model and appeared in commercials and plays, according to People magazine. After graduating high school, he spent some time in Israel, working on a kibbutz. Le Bon later returned to England where he studied drama at the University of Birmingham.

Duran Duran

In 1980, Le Bon auditioned to join the rock group Duran Duran, which was started by Nick Rhodes and John Taylor. Le Bon was introduced to the group by an ex-girlfriend who worked at the Rum Runner, a club where the band often played. As the story goes, Le Bon made quite an impression on the band with his outfit, which featured a pair of pink leopard-print pants. Before long, he had dropped out of school and was their lead singer as the group continued to perform in Birmingham clubs. The most famous line-up of the group was now set: Le Bon on vocals, Rhodes on keyboards, John Taylor on bass guitar, Andy Taylor on lead guitar and Roger Taylor on drums. Duran Duran broke into the British charts with the single “Planet Earth” in 1981. Their self-titled album was released later that year.

While the band did not receive critical acclaim, Duran Duran did attract a lot of attention, mostly for their photogenic faces and their music videos. Their first video, “Girls on Film,” created its share of controversy for featuring some risqué scenes with beautiful models.

For their second album, Rio, Duran Duran took a more cinematic approach to the increasingly popular art form of the music video. For “Hungry Like the Wolf,” the video had an adventure theme similar to the popular Indiana Jones films. The title track was shot in Sri Lanka and featured the band sailing on a beautiful yacht—an interesting choice considering that sailing had been actually a great interest of Le Bon since his youth. Both videos received a lot of play on MTV and “Hungry Like the Wolf” was the group’s first top 10 hit in the United States.

International Pop Star

Before long, Duran Duran became one of the biggest music acts of the decade. Their fans were devoted to such a frenzied level that it reminded many of the mania that surrounded the Beatles. There were even comparisons drawn between the two groups with Duran Duran being christened the “Fab Five.” Their extensive touring and a third album, Seven and the Ragged Tiger (1983), only further cemented their pop star standing.

Beyond the hysteria that surrounded them, Duran Duran had true musical talent and was able to produce infectious, modern-sounding pop music. Le Bon and the rest of the group won two Grammy Awards in 1983 for Best Video - Short Form and Best Video Album. Still Le Bon sometimes faced criticism for his vocals, his dancing style on stage and his weight.

Challenges

By 1985, Duran Duran was feeling the strain of its success. The group recorded “A View to a Kill” together as the title track for the James Bond film by the same title. That same year, the members of Duran Duran released a number of side projects. While John and Andy Taylor worked with Tony Thompson and Robert Palmer as the Power Station, Le Bon and the remainder of Duran Duran formed Arcadia, which released one album together, So Red the Rose. Andy and Roger Taylor left the group that same year.

On a personal front, Le Bon found himself in a dangerous situation that year. Pursuing his interest in sailing, he had invested in a sailing yacht called Drum. Participating in the Fastnet race off the coast of England, he and the rest of the crew (which included his brother Jonathan) nearly died when the boat capsized, trapping them inside the hull. They stayed there for approximately forty minutes before being rescued. This near tragedy did not stop him from participating in the 1985-1986 Whitbread Round the World Race aboard a repaired Drum. He and his crew came in third overall. That same year, he married model Yasmin Parvaneh. The two started dating after Le Bon saw her photograph and called her agency to get her phone number.

Waning Popularity

After Roger and Andy Taylor's departures, Duran Duran continued on with its three remaining members, releasing Notorious in 1986, which featured a funkier sound than earlier recordings. The title track was the strongest hit on the album. By the late 1980s, Duran Duran’s popularity began to wane. Their next two studio albums, Big Thing (1988) and Liberty (1990), failed to capture the attention of music buyers and critics. While a greatest hits collection, Decade (1990), sparked some interest, the band really only returned to the charts with Duran Duran (also known as The Wedding Album) in 1993. “Ordinary World” was their first major hit in years.

Their next venture, 1995’s Thank You, did not fare as well. The collection of cover songs was intended to pay tribute to their influences, but critics shredded their versions of songs by Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and others. The next year, Le Bon branched out on his own to support the Bosnian War Child charity. He sang “Ordinary World” as a duet with Luciano Pavarotti and joined Dolores O’Riordan from the Cranberries on their hit “Linger” in concert.

Duran Duran’s next album, Medazzaland (1997), was done without longtime member John Taylor who left in 1996 for a solo career. “Electric Barbarella” was perhaps the only track got some airplay, referencing the science fiction cult film that the group took its name from. But otherwise the album went largely unnoticed. A similar fate met their 2000 release, Pop Trash.

Skilled at writing hits, Le Bon took on different type of musical challenge, creating the score for Mario Van Peebles’ film Love Kills (1997). The album was done with Le Bon’s company, Syn Studios, which he started with friend and composer Nick Wood.

Comeback

The "Fab Five" reunited in 2001 and began working on a new album while looking for a new record deal. After years of being ignored and underestimated, Duran Duran began to receive some accolades for their work. They received an MTV Video Music Award for lifetime achievement in 2003 and the BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music in 2004. The BRIT Award marked the first time in 18 years that the group had played together live. Returning to touring, the group sold out a string of concerts throughout Great Britain. The obvious fan interest helped Duran Duran secure a contract with Epic Records. Featuring the single “(Reach Up for the) Sunrise,” Astronaut (2004) was the reunited group’s first release. The "Fab Five," however, soon became four when Andy Taylor left the group in 2006.

In 2007, Duran Duran kicked off their next album, Red Carpet Massacre, with a series of concerts on Broadway in New York City. Sounding very contemporary, the recording featured some collaborations with pop sensation Justin Timberlake and some assistance from legendary hip-hop and rap producer Timbaland. Le Bon and the rest of the group have been touring extensively to support the new album.

Le Bon and his wife have three children. The man who once had legions of teenage fans is now the father to three teenage girls, Amber Rose Tamara, Saffron Sahara and Tallulah Pine.

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