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Simply Red - pop band in touch with pre-rock-and-roll roots. Lead singer Hucknall stresses good melodies

Mick Hucknall is tired of having his music called ``blue-eyed soul.'' Mr. Hucknall is the redheaded lead singer with the three-year-old British band Simply Red. Its two popular albums, ``Picture Book'' and ``Men and Women,'' made appearances on both the black and pop Billboard magazine charts in the United States last year, and received much critical acclaim.

Hucknall had this to say on the subject in a recent interview: ``Just because I like black music doesn't mean to say that I'm trying to be black; I'm white, and that's it; I'm quite happy to be that. I'm not trying to be anything. I don't really care whether it's soul. ... If soul is a feeling, everybody has feelings; therefore everybody's got soul.''

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In live performance, Simply Red rocks its audiences with music that is at once deeply rooted in American rhythm and blues and yet bears the stamp of Hucknall's unusual persona.

Although he's not yet 30, Hucknall has the bearing of an older man. Even with his wild shock of red hair cascading over his forehead, he resembles a Dickens character more than a rakish boy of the 1980s. Furthermore, he's into Cole Porter, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane - not to mention Al Green, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin - all of whom he heard on the radio as a child growing up in Manchester, England.

Yet he says, ``It's difficult to say what your influences are when we don't play blues, we don't really play reggae, we don't really play jazz. We're reggae-ish, jazzy-ish, bluesy-ish. We're not an R&B band. We're music, and it fits into lots of categories.''

Hucknall not only loves (and writes) good songs and melodies; he distinctly dislikes a lot of the mechanical techno-pop that's around today. But he makes the point that he doesn't really care if something is new or old, as long as it's good. He has even included Cole Porter's ``Every Time We Say Goodbye'' and ``Love For Sale'' in his repertoire.

``I believe there are people out there who feel quite alienated by a lot of contemporary music,'' he adds. ``They'd like to hear strong melodies and good performances by a group.''

Perhaps Hucknall's view explains why Simply Red, even though it's a departure from the styles of many current pop groups, enjoys the same mass appeal as those groups.

``I just feel that what we're trying to do is real. ... I think that's what music is ultimately, and the more we're left without it, the more refreshing it becomes when we get it again.''

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Hucknall doesn't see himself as a rock-and-roller, living on the road for the rest of his life. Although he wants to stay in music, at some point he'd like to settle down and raise a family. But first, he wants to leave a strong musical legacy behind.

``I would like to think that I've made five or six very good albums that will be playable in 20 or 30 years' time.''

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