America has embraced many bands and musicians over the years, but only a
few dozen have wrapped themselves into the fabric of the countrys pop
culture like Huey Lewis and the News.
A massive presence in the formative days of MTV, the blues-influenced pop rockers unleashed a string of feel-good, smash-hit singles, including The Heart of Rock & Roll, Hip to Be Square, I Want a New Drug, Stuck with You and The Power of Love. Written for the film Back to the Future, the latter earned its leader an Oscar nomination.
No band is more quintessentially 80s, and Lewis contributes it all to never trying to be something he wasnt.
I like to think that were honest about it: Rock has got to be true. Whether its life-changing or not, its got to be true, he said. I like to think that holds with our songs. They arent always about earth-shaking things, but they ring true.
The 30 million records and pair of Grammy wins seem to support that conjecture. The group currently is co-headlining a tour with Joe Cocker whom Lewis promises to collaborate with onstage each night, including Thursdays at Zoo Amphitheatre keeping the dream rolling on.
Thats ultimately what its really about, he said of the News well-attended tours. When you start off in this game, its for other reasons. Its about being a star, making a hit record, making lots of money, but playing to people who want to hear you is all that really ever matters. To have a career doing that knock on wood, thank you very much, knock on wood.
Even with the groups heyday well behind it, regular touring and collaborations with musicians like Garth Brooks and Umphreys McGee have helped Lewis and the News maintain a presence on the cultural landscape, even popping up in the occasional movie. Comedy heavyweights (and self-proclaimed fans) Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen approached the band about penning the theme song to what became their 2008 hit, Pineapple Express.
They said they wanted me to do the song and that the title would have to be the name of the film, Lewis said. At first, I thought it wouldnt work, but then they told me the name was Pineapple Express, and that it was about this bad, super-duper pot, and I thought, I can do that. The resulting tune was one of the acts first original numbers since 2001s Plan B (2010s Soulsville, being a tribute album to the R&B label Stax Records, doesnt count). Lewis long has been weary of writing new original material mainly because hes worried how to sell it.
Its a different world out there compared to 1983, when the News Sports album went seven times platinum. Todays musical landscape is one that Lewis praises for allowing artists more freedom, yet laments for a litany of reasons.
In my day, there was no Internet, and the radio was preprogrammed with Top 40. If you didnt have a hit, you werent allowed to make records anymore, he said. Today, music society is segregated. Theres rap over here and country over there. Its kind of a shame. The thing about music back then is we were all competing for the same thing, and if you wanted to hear Huey Lewis on the radio, you were going to listen to the Commodores and George Strait, too.
Although they are no longer concerned with competing for radio plays, Lewis said he and his bandmates plan on challenging themselves after touring wraps in the fall: Theyre curious as to whether they might have another If This Is It in them or not.
I think were going to try and write a little, he said. Only for ourselves, of course, and who knows what will come of it, but why not?