Simply Red Biography

This soul-influenced UK band revolves around the central figure of vocalist Mick Hucknall (8 June 1960, Manchester, Lancashire, England). Hucknall’s first musical outing was with the punk-inspired Frantic Elevators, who recorded a handful of singles, including the impressive ballad, ‘Holding Back The Years’. When they split up in 1983, the vocalist formed Simply Red with a fluid line-up that included Ojo, Mog, Dave Fryman and Eddie Sherwood. After signing to Elektra Records the band had a more settled line-up featuring Hucknall, Tony Bowers (bass), Fritz McIntyre (b. 2 September 1958; keyboards), Tim Kellett (b. 23 July 1964; brass), Sylvan Richardson (guitar) and Chris Joyce (drums). Their 1985 debut Picture Book climbed to number 2 in the UK charts, while their enticing cover version of the Valentine Brothers’ ‘Money’s Too Tight To Mention’ was a Top 20 hit. Although the band registered a lowly number 66 with the follow-up ‘Come To My Aid’, they rediscovered the hit formula with a sterling re-recording of the minor classic ‘Holding Back The Years’, which peaked at UK number 2. The song went on to top the US charts, ushering in a period of international success.

Simply Red’s next album, Men And Women, included collaborations between Hucknall and former Motown Records composer Lamont Dozier. Further hits followed with ‘The Right Thing’, ‘Infidelity’ and a reworking of the Cole Porter standard, ‘Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye’. Having twice reached number 2 in the album charts, Simply Red finally scaled the summit in 1989 with the accomplished A New Flame. The album coincided with another hit, ‘It’s Only Love’, which was followed by a splendid reworking of Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes’ ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’, which climbed to number 2 in the UK and topped the US chart.

In the early 90s, Simply Red (now effectively Hucknall and various backing musicians) consolidated their position as one of the most accomplished blue-eyed soul outfits to emerge from the UK in the latter part of the twentieth century. The 1991 album Stars pursued hip-hop-inspired rhythms, alongside their usual soul style. It topped the UK charts over a period of months, outselling much-hyped efforts by Michael Jackson, U2, Dire Straits and Guns N’Roses. The follow-up Life was also a bestseller, although it showed little sign of creative development. The album did feature the wonderful ‘Fairground’, however, which provided Hucknall with his first ever UK chart-topping single. The band returned to the charts in 1996 and 1997 with cover versions of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Angel’ and Gregory Isaacs’ ‘Night Nurse’. Their fifth consecutive UK number 1 album, Blue, featured several other cover versions (including two takes of the Hollies’ ‘The Air That I Breathe’) and marked a return to the smooth soul style of A New Flame.

The disappointing Love And The Russian Winter (1999), which was pilloried in the press, broke the band’s run of UK chart-toppers. Hucknall took stock and decided to break away from major record companies, securing a bank loan against his house and studio to finance the recording of a new album and setting up his own company with manager Ian Grenfell. Home (2003) was the first album release on and, with sales of over 2.5 million copies worldwide, proved to be a notable success for an artist running his own label. Hucknall also returned to the upper regions of the UK singles chart in spring 2003 with the Hall And Oates -sampling ‘Sunrise’. The success of Home helped finance the recording of the follow-up Simplified (2005), on which Hucknall reworked a number of songs from his back catalogue. The 2007 release Stay was another solid Simply Red album, with no unnecessary thrills amidst the usual collection of tasteful soul jazz. Of more note was Hucknall’s first solo album, released the following year, on which he covered tracks by the legendary blues singer Bobby Bland. Hucknall is also a co-owner of Blood & Fire Records, a label dedicated to reissuing classic dub reggae albums.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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