Huey Lewis and the News

Huey Lewis Is Fucking Amazing

A regular guy with a big dick and a man face who just wants to get a little bit fucked up is…very cool

Huey Lewis has canceled all his upcoming 2018 shows for his band Huey Lewis and the News because of hearing loss due to Meniere’s disease. Predictably, this has led to most of the obvious jokes you can think of on Twitter: Huey Lewis can’t hear the news! Huey Lewis needs a new drug! Even fans who wished him well and a speedy recovery felt the need to defensively praise him:

That is sad enough, but I must report with even greater sadness that in an edit meeting for this publication, among a staff that is 98 percent comprised of people under 30, that only a few people in the room actually knew who Huey Lewis was let alone any of his songs. At one point, someone tried to put on a Huey Lewis song and instead played “The Heat Is On.” “The Heat Is On” is a song by Glenn Frey. Who was in the Eagles.

It was also unclear whether it was okay to like Huey Lewis or not. “Wait, no this isn’t cool,” someone said in response to “The Power of Love” playing. If nothing else, a living person should have a peripheral appreciation for “The Power of Love” for two reasons: it’s in the movie Back to the Future, which happened in the cool year of 1985 and it was cool enough to be covered by indie rock mainstays The Hold Steady.

Aghast, I told them Huey Lewis is actually amazing.

“Are you serious or are you being sarcastic?” MEL editor Josh Schollmeyer asked.

I am serious! Huey Lewis is cool. In fact, millennials could take a note or two from Huey Lewis’ brand of cool, which offers up one of the most fundamental lessons on cool ever offered: The only real way to be cool is, and has always been, and always will be, by caring so fucking little about being cool that you are pathologically you — which happens to be cool.

I offer the following data points as proof.

Huey Lewis was born old.

Or in the words of music critic Steven Hyden, Huey Lewis has a “confidently smirking cool-dad” face that looks “eternally 41.” He is an everyman who wrote insanely catchy songs about very regular things, like staying together, or wanting the sweet kind of buzz from drugs that won’t fuck up your life too much. While that’s the antithesis of the concerns of youth-obsessed tryhards in search of epic arcs, his only real crime it seems was being, perhaps, “too much of a regular guy.”

Huey Lewis already looked like a middle-aged dad in his early thirties, when the band’s third album, Sports, debuted in 1983:

Lewis is of an era in pop music where the men fronting pop bands — not big, ballsy arena-rock bands, but pop bands — didn’t look like stunted boys or overgrown children, but like mature, adult men. They wore man blazers and skinny ties and had facial hair and/or weathered, lined faces that looked like they’d seen things. See also: Robert Palmer.

But they delivered on slick, catchy pop earworms that embedded in the culture permanently, with production values the Chainsmokers would kill for. Lewis was actually born in 1950 in New York City to an Irish a father and Polish mother. He scored an 800 on the math part of the SAT and got into Cornell, and then decided to hitchhike around the United States and Europe learning to play blues harmonica instead.

The “smirk” is allegedly because he has a big dick.

The rumor comes from what you’d call first responders on the music scene, aka, groupies. Or at least one legendary groupie named Connie Hamzy, who saw all the dicks back in the day and told Howard Stern that Huey Lewis was the “biggest she ever had.”

Indisputable fact: A regular guy with a big dick and a man face who just wants to get a little bit fucked up is very cool.

Huey Lewis was discovered by Nick Lowe.

We wouldn’t even know about Huey Lewis had it not been for very cool singer/songwriter Nick Lowe, who discovered Lewis in his old band, Clover. Nick Lowe wrote “Cruel to Be Kind,” and more importantly, “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love and Understanding” for Elvis Costello. Members of Clover would go on to do backing band duties on Costello’s My Aim Is True, play with Lucinda Williams, and become the Doobie Brothers and Toto. Alex Call, another original Clover member, wrote the song “867–5309/Jenny” for Tommy Tutone.

Huey Lewis played harmonica on a fucking Thin Lizzy record.

That record is Thin Lizzy’s live record Live and Dangerous, considered one of the best live records of all time. Lewis said in an interview that the experience and his friendship with Lizzy bassist and frontman Phil Lynott, who is also very cool for being a black Irish guitarist in the best proto-metal band of all time, is how he learned how to run a band.

Huey Lewis made one of the best (and best-selling) rock records of all time.

Whether you know it or not, you’ve heard Huey Lewis songs, and you’ve heard them over and over. That is because of their third record, called Sports, which marries the blues-infused pub rock of Lewis’ early days with doo-wop, 80s slickness, and sax. Somehow, this manages to sound throwback and fresh at the same time because of the fast and loose way they hold it all together. In the parlance of the kids today, every song is a banger.

Nevermind that Futurama joke: Five of the album’s nine tracks would make the top 20 for 1984 — those hits include “I Wanna New Drug,” “If This Is It,” and “Heart of Rock & Roll” — and they still hold up today. Sports kept good company that year. The only other records to chart number 1? Born in the U.S.A., Purple Rain, Thriller, and the Footloose soundtrack. It sold six million copies the first year alone, and has since gone platinum seven times over.

The Huey Lewis song in American Psycho was misunderstood.

“Hip to Be Square” sounds like a song celebrating growing up and getting on the grid — cutting your hair, working out, watching what you eat, and liking your bands in business suits. The song — off the band’s Sports follow up, Fore!, was used in an iconic scene in American Psycho, where Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman explains Huey Lewis thusly:

Their early work was a little too new wave for my taste. But when Sports came out in ’83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He’s been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far more bitter, cynical sense of humor.

Bateman goes on. “I think their undisputed masterpiece is “Hip To Be Square.” A song so catchy, most people probably don’t listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it’s not just about the pleasures of conformity and the importance of trends. It’s also a personal statement about the band itself.”

Of course, Bateman is a murderous yuppie, so we’re not supposed to cosign on his point of view; In other words, him liking Huey Lewis is supposed to be how we know they suck. But Lewis lamented not writing the song in the third person because, as he put it to Rolling Stone in 2013, “‘Hip to be Square’ was a joke that not everybody got.”

Later critics have pointed out the fundamental misread of the song in the film. “With apologies to Patrick Bateman, “Hip to Be Square” is a great track, probably the most sarcastically blithe ode to lifestyle fascism ever put to wax,” Nicholas Pell wrote in 2016 at LA Weekly. “The mechanistic backup vocals after Huey commands the News to ‘tell ’em, boys!’ is the most beautifully soulless sound this side of Boyd Rice’s ‘Total War.’”

Bret Easton Ellis has since apologized for the implied criticism of Huey Lewis channeled through Bateman’s soulless capitalism. And by the time Huey Lewis shows up in the movie Duets with Gwyneth Paltrow in 2000, critics are beginning to realize that maybe, just maybe, Huey Lewis was always so uncool as to make him actually cool.

Huey Lewis is in the “We Are the World” video, hanging out with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.

Huey Lewis turned down Bob Dylan and Coca-Cola.

Sports was so good that Dylan sent Lewis a song to record. Lewis didn’t do it. Sports was so big that after Pepsi signed Michael Jackson, Coca Cola offered Lewis millions to sign him. He didn’t do it.

Huey Lewis sued Ray Parker Jr. for allegedly plagiarizing “I Wanna New Drug” for the song “Ghostbusters.”

They settled out of court, and the terms of the deal remained confidential. (When Lewis spoke about it on an episode of Behind the Music, Parker sued him.)

Huey Lewis knows he isn’t cool, which makes him cool.

In the Rolling Stone interview, the reporter asks Lewis if he thinks the culture has shifted to the point where he is actually cool in a way he “wasn’t for a long time.” Lewis demonstrates perfectly how comfortable he is with being cool, or not being cool, and just generally happy that he was able to make a living in a band:

I think that’s definitely true. I think it’s cooler to have a Huey Lewis and the News T-shirt now than any other time since 1989…I’m not pretending that we’re giving Bruno Mars competition any time soon, but I do think we’re a little cooler.

And even if they aren’t, that sort of easy going humility makes it abundantly clear that Huey Lewis does not care, never has, and never will.