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Huey Lewis is Battling Tragedy Once Again

“They say the heart of rock and roll is still beating. And from what I’ve seen, I believe them.” These are the immortal lyrics of musical icon Huey Lewis. And if there were ever anyone qualified to take the pulse of rock and roll, it’s certainly Lewis.

Huey Lewis and the News dominated the genre in the 1980s. They were responsible for new sounds, smash hits, and memorable movie soundtracks. In fact, if you spin your radio dial to a classic rock station right now, there is a decent chance you’ll hear one of their wildly popular tunes.

Huey Lewis’s career has span upwards of four decades.

However, on his road to the top of the music industry, there have been some good times and bad. His life and career aren’t without spectacular triumphs and painful tragedies.

This video will examine some of the ups and downs of Huey Lewis. Stick around till the end to discover the latest bit of bittersweet news in the Lewis legacy.

His Parents Divorced Early

Huey Lewis was born in 1950 with creativity in his blood. His father was a drummer in a jazz band and his mother was a commercial artist. If that wasn’t enough, Lewis grew up in New York City. The clubs and music venues here caught Lewis’s interest at a young age.

However, it didn’t last forever. Lewis claimed his parents divorced when he was 11. Although this was painful for a young Huey, there was one benefit.

His mom started renting out the spare bedroom in the apartment. The new tenant was folk musician Billy Roberts.

Lewis already had music on his mind, but the appearance of Roberts cemented his passion. What’s more, Roberts’ main two instruments were the guitar and the harmonica.

Lewis claimed that it was Roberts giving him a harmonica that turned him on to the instrument.

It caught on too. Just try finding a Huey Lewis and The News song without a harmonica solo.

A Court Battle Determined His Schooling

More bad news came from the divorce. When it was time for Lewis to go to school there was a conflict.

His father was dead set on sending Lewis to prep school. Meanwhile, his mother was absolutely against the idea.

The issue didn’t die down either. The two parents got into a heated battle of over. It became so bad that Lewis’s mother took his father to court regarding the school.

After an arduous battle, the judge finally left the decision of schooling to Lewis. He chose the prep school. It seems Lewis didn’t like the school all that much. However, his studies were top rate.

Lewis graduated and was accepted to the engineering program at Cornell University. But it was music, not engineering, that would be his career path.

Time Spent on The Road

Before Lewis went to Cornell, he decided to spend some time traveling. His journey brought him to Europe where the young man hitched rides from city to city.

Yet, a long-haired musician was not a popular passenger to pick up. Sometimes Lewis had to wait up to 12 hours between rides. Though this wasn’t without a silver lining. With the time spent waiting, Lewis mastered the Harmonica.

This wasn’t the only music Lewis would find on his trip.

In Spain, Lewis ended up losing his passport. With no ID and no money, he would have to wait for the American Embassy to open after the weekend.

Killing time once again with his harmonica, Lewis befriended some students in Seville. They saw his skills and linked him up with a band. The chance encounter led to Lewis playing with the band in his first concert ever. 

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The Band Went Platinum

After college, Huey Lewis bounced around a little in the music industry. Such adventure included playing alongside Thin Lizzy and opening for Van Morrison.

But Fast forward a few years to the 80s. At this point, Huey Lewis and The News were fixing to take the decade by storm.

In 1982, the band released the hit album Picture This. Such hits as Workin’ for a Livin’ pushed this to a gold album and broke the top 40.

Picture This was the springboard to their next album 1984’s Sports.

Sports was a smash hit. The album shot up to number two with a bullet on the billboard. Beyond that, the album had 4 tracks that reached the top ten. Heart of Rock and Roll and I Want a New Drug both reached number one in the rankings.

So popular was Sports that it went platinum– a whopping 7 times! This album firmly placed Huey Lewis and the news at the top of the rock and roll genre.

In 2013 Sports was re-released for its 30th anniversary. The album is now nearing 10 million in sales.

Lost Hearing in Right Ear

At the height of the band’s popularity, Huey Lewis was fixing to be hit with tragedy. In 1987 hot on the heels of their fourth studio album Fore!, Lewis lost the hearing in his right ear.

It happened all of the sudden. The musician claimed hit felt like his ear was underwater. All the sound on that side was groggy and unclear. For someone musical, losing hearing is the worst possibility.

Lewis was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease. The condition is an inner ear problem that distorts sound, blocks hearing, and can induce vertigo.

Worse still, there was no cure for Lewis. He was told he would have to live with it.

Though it was a depressing thought for Lewis, he did learn some encouraging news. It seems Brian Wilson, front man for The Beach Boys also suffered from the condition during his career.

And if there were ever any musical inspiration for Lewis to continue with music, it would be the genius of Brian Wilson.

Lewis learned to live with the hearing issues and kept on.

Back to The Future Soundtrack

Huey Lewis’ music also made a splash in the film industry. In 1985, the band recorded the song The Power of Love for the hit sci-fi movie Back to the Future.

The song became a number one hit.

It wasn’t just the song that was in the film, either. Lewis also made a humorous cameo. At one point in the movie, the protagonist Marty McFly plays the Power of Love on his guitar for the school’s band audition.

Huey Lewis, playing one of the judges for the competition, shuts down McFly’s performance insisting that he is just “too darn loud.”

The cameo is a funny nod to the popularity of the band at the time.

The Power of Love was nominated for an Academy Award.

American Psycho Legacy

Back to the Future wasn’t the only time Huey Lewis was immortalized on film.

Huey Lewis and the News play an important role in the most iconic scene from the 2000 cult classic film American Psycho.

In the scene, the main character Patrick Bateman explains in great detail the performance and sales of the band. Bateman complements the band’s work on the hit album Sports. Playing the song Hip to be Square at full volume, he murders his colleague with an ax.

It’s a curious and jarring thematic blend, but it’s effective and memorable.

Although Lewis insisted that he was happy to be a part of the movie, there were some copyright issues.

Hip to Be Square had to be pulled from the soundtrack release for the film. They never received the rights to the songs and thousands of copies of the album had to be destroyed.

He’s Been Parodied by Weird Al

It’s clear you have made it in the music industry when Weird Al wants to parody one of your songs.

Well, in 1985, Huey Lewis was paid such a compliment.

Legendary musician and parody expert Weird Al Yankovic gave a treatment to Lewis’ hit I Want a New Drug.

His version was called “I Want a New Duck” The lyrics tell the story of a man looking for the right behavior wanted in a pet duck.

Lewis received the song well and this wasn’t the end of the spoof.

In a very meta Funny or Die comedy skit Weird Al and Huey Lewis reenact the scene from American Psycho. Instead of discussing his band, the two are discussing the film American Psycho.

The bit culminated in Lewis murdering Al with an ax for parodying his song.

The Ghostbusters Controversy

Everyone has heard the Ghostbusters theme song by Ray Parker Jr. However, a keen ear may recognize that the song bears a resemblance to Huey Lewis’s song I Want a New Drug.

So close, in fact, Lewis sued Parker claiming he stole his sound.

The suit was ultimately settled out of court.  Lewis suggested that in the music industry anyone thinks they can steal ideas as long as they pay enough. Though the amount was not disclosed, Lewis suggested Parker did end up paying heavily for the copyright issue.

Try listening to Ghostbusters without hearing Lewis’ sound that was released just a few months before.

More Hearing Issues and Final Album

Unfortunately for Lewis, his hearing issues have reared their head again. The artist recently said the hearing in both ears is now going bad.

Instead of hearing his melodies, Lewis can only hear a distortion of sound.

It has been so bad lately that the band had to cancel a 2018 tour because Lewis couldn’t hear well enough to perform.

Lewis is preparing to release his final album. It is a collection of songs performed before he lost his hearing.

Though this is painful news for the musical icon, he suggests that it could be worse and there are people out there in worse shape than him.

In some ways it is bittersweet, and the final album will be a bookend to a legendary career for a band that dominated pop music for many years.

It seems Huey Lewis is battling tragedy yet again. His 40-year career in the music industry has had its series of ups and downs. But Huey Lewis and the News will always be legendary.

So, what do you think is Lewis’ best song? Are you looking forward to the final album? Sound off in the comments.

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