Simply Red

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Simply Red
Mick Hucknall singing.jpg
Lead singer Mick Hucknall
Background information
Origin Manchester, England
Years active
  • 1985–2010
  • 2015–present
Past members

Simply Red are a British soul and pop band formed in Manchester in 1985. The lead vocalist of the band is singer and songwriter Mick Hucknall, who, by the time the band initially disbanded in 2010, was the only original member left. [4] Since the release of their debut studio album Picture Book (1985), they have had ten songs reach top 10 in the UK Singles Chart, including "Holding Back the Years" and "If You Don't Know Me by Now", both of which reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100. They have had five number one albums in the UK, with their 1991 album, Stars , being one of the best-selling albums in UK chart history. [5]


At the 1992 and 1993 Brit Awards, they received the award for Best British Group. [6] They received three Grammy Award nominations: for Best New Artist in 1987, and "Holding Back the Years" and "If You Don't Know Me by Now" for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. The band re-formed in 2015. Simply Red have sold over 50 million albums. [7]


1977–1984: Beginnings: The Frantic Elevators

Hucknall was in a punk group called The Frantic Elevators, whose seven-year run produced limited releases on local labels and ended in 1984 upon critical acclaim for their final single, "Holding Back the Years". [8]

1985–1988: Formation and early success

After the demise of The Frantic Elevators, Hucknall linked up with manager Elliot Rashman. By early 1985, Hucknall and Rashman had assembled a band of local session musicians and begun to attract record-company attention. The group first went under a number of names like "World Service", "Red And The Dancing Dead", "Just Red" (after Hucknall's nickname "Red", denoting his hair colour) but then Hucknall decided it would sound better with the addition of the word 'Simply'. [9] The band's name is also linked to Hucknall's allegiance to being a supporter of Manchester United, as the club's home shirt colour is red. [10]

The initial Simply Red line-up consisted of Mick Hucknall (vocals), David Fryman (guitar), Tony Bowers (bass), Fritz McIntyre (keyboards and vocals), Tim Kellett (brass and live backing vocals) and Chris Joyce (drums). [8] Bowers and Joyce had both previously been members of post-punk bands The Durutti Column and The Mothmen; Kellett had also been a member of The Durutti Column, though not at the same time as Bowers and Joyce.

Simply Red signed a contract with Elektra in 1985, [8] but after recording one track ("Red Box"), Fryman left the group and was replaced by guitarist Sylvan Richardson, who was billed only as 'Sylvan'.

"Red Box" would eventually see release in 1985 as a B-side to the group's first single, "Money's Too Tight (to Mention)", a cover of a soul song originally recorded by The Valentine Brothers. "Money's Too Tight (to Mention)" gained international success, reaching the UK and Irish Top 20, [8] then later the American, French and Dutch Top 30, and the Italian Top 5. It was included on their debut album, Picture Book , also released in 1985. [8]

Several low-charting singles would follow for the band. Among the comparative flops was a re-recording of the Frantic Elevators' "Holding Back the Years", done up in a new soul-ballad style arrangement. [8] Released as Simply Red's third single in 1985, the track initially placed outside the UK Top 50. However, upon being re-released in 1986, "Holding Back the Years" became a major hit, peaking at #1 in Ireland, #2 in the UK, #3 in the Netherlands, #20 in Italy and later #1 in the United States.

Simply Red's second album, 1987's Men and Women , [8] saw the band adopting bowler hats and colourful suits instead of their earlier ragamuffin look. As well, the introspection and social commentary of their debut album was replaced by a blue-eyed soul sound with funk influences. Veteran Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier co-authored two tracks with Hucknall for the album—these tracks were credited to 'Hucknall/Dozier/Hucknall' in the original album credits, in homage to the famous Motown writing team of Holland/Dozier/Holland. [8]

The album's lead single "The Right Thing" was another international hit, [8] charting in the top 40 throughout Europe and North America. Several follow-up singles also met with modest success in the UK and elsewhere.

1989–1995: Peak years

Guitarist Richardson left after the release of Men and Women and was replaced by Brazilian Heitor Pereira (billed as Heitor TP). Saxophonist Ian Kirkham, who joined the group during the Picture Book tour in 1986 and played on Men and Women, became an official member.

With their third album A New Flame in 1989, Simply Red adopted a yet more mainstream popular sound aimed for commercial rather than critical success, typified by their cover of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' pop classic "If You Don't Know Me by Now", which became their second U.S. #1 hit, and one of the biggest singles of the year internationally; and their greatest success to that point. [8]

Hucknall was by this time an international superstar, being photographed with models and Hollywood celebrities. This seemed to harm the band's coherence as a unit, with Hucknall declaring in 1991 that Simply Red was "essentially a solo project". The rhythm section of Bowers and Joyce left around this time; they were replaced by bassist Shaun Ward (ex-Floy Joy and Everyday People) and drummer Gota Yashiki (often billed as just Gota).

The band's career peaked in late 1991 with the release of Stars , which became the best-selling album for two years running in Europe and the UK (though notably had less chart success in the US than their previous albums, still earning however a gold certification). The album spun off five top 40 singles in the UK, and the singles "Something Got Me Started" and "Stars" were also significant chart hits throughout all of Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. [8] After the tour, Tim Kellett left to form dance band Olive.

After touring and promoting Stars for two years, Simply Red returned in 1995 with "Fairground", a dance-influenced track prominently featuring a sample from Zki & Dobri's Goodmen project. A massive radio hit, "Fairground" went on to become the band's first and only UK #1. Its parent album Life sold more than a million copies in the UK alone, making it the fourth-biggest seller of the year. By this time, the band was officially Hucknall, McIntyre, Pereira, Kirkham, and new backing vocalist Dee Johnson. Guest musicians (including Sly & Robbie) filled in on drums and bass. For the subsequent live shows, Simply Red were joined by new recruits' Steve Lewinson on bass, Velroy Bailey on drums, and second backing vocalist Sarah Brown.


McIntyre, the only original remaining band member aside from lead singer Hucknall, left the group after the Life album, as did Pereira. From that time in 1996, Simply Red was essentially a trade name for Hucknall and a bevy of session musicians, which would vary from track to track (and gig to gig) as needed, although all post-1996 Simply Red albums and live shows did include contributions from sax player Ian Kirkham. Returning drummer Gota Yashiki (co-producing several album tracks) and backing vocalist Dee Johnson were also frequently involved with the band's later recordings and shows, as was new keyboardist/co-producer Andy Wright.

East West Records issued the compilation album Greatest Hits in 1996, reportedly against Hucknall's wishes.[ citation needed ] The album featured one new track, a cover of the 1973 Aretha Franklin hit "Angel" which was co-produced with The Fugees (who also served as backing musicians). Released as a single, "Angel" reached #4 in the UK.

1998 saw the release of the cover-heavy Blue , which produced four UK top 40 singles, including the top 10 hits "Say You Love Me" and "The Air That I Breathe". The follow-up album, 1999's Love and the Russian Winter , was a relative disappointment, spawning two minor hits that failed to break the top 10.

Simply Red were dropped from their label, East West Records in April 2000. [11] Hucknall subsequently set up the website to handle releases of new recordings; the new label/website venture proved to be quite successful, many of the band's releases selling and charting almost as well as their earlier recordings.

2003–2010: Re-establishment as a live band and disbanding

Between 2003 and its disbandment in 2010, the band's official line-up for live performances was Mick Hucknall (vocals), Ian Kirkham (saxophone/keyboards), Dave Clayton (keyboards), Kenji Suzuki (guitar), Kevin Robinson (trumpet/flugelhorn/percussion), Steve Lewinson (bass guitar) and Pete Lewinson (drums). These musicians featured on Simply Red's albums as well, though they were often augmented or replaced by session musicians. From 2003 to 2008, John Johnson (trombone), Dee Johnson (vocals), Sarah Brown (vocals) and Chris De Margary (saxophone) also appeared on both albums and tours.

On 24 March 2003, the band released Home , a mixture of original songs and covers, including a version of The Stylistics' "You Make Me Feel Brand New", which hit UK #7. The album went Double Platinum in the United Kingdom, Gold in Canada, and Platinum in Europe. It featured two other hit singles: "Sunrise" (#7 UK) and "Fake" (#21 UK).

On 13 October 2005, followed Simplified , mainly an album of stripped-down versions of their classic hits. The single "Perfect Love" made it to number 30 on the UK chart, the band's final top 30 placing.

On 12 March 2007, the band released its tenth (and, at that time, proclaimed final) studio album, Stay . This was preceded by the single from that album, "So Not Over You", released on 5 March 2007, which would peak at #34 in the UK. Follow-up single "Stay" (released on 28 May 2007) peaked at #36 UK, and was the band's final placing in the UK top 100 (although they would release several non-charting singles in the following years).

On 19 May 2008, Hucknall released his first solo album, Tribute to Bobby . [12] The backing musicians on the solo album were virtually the same group of musicians he had been working with as "Simply Red" for the last few years.

Hucknall announced that the name Simply Red would be retired after a farewell tour which started in early 2009 and ended in 2010. [1]

"I've kind of decided that the 25 years is going to be enough, so I intend that 2009 will be the last Simply Red tour."

Simply Red's final concert took place at the O2 Arena in London on 19 December 2010. The concert was shown live at cinemas throughout the UK. [13]

2014–2015: Big Love and 30th anniversary reunion tour

On 3 November 2014, Simply Red announced that they would be reforming in Autumn 2015 for a 30th anniversary European tour, the "Big Love Tour 2015". [14] The tour debuted on 20 October 2015 in Odense, Denmark, went on in 2016 as the "Big Love Tour 2016" and ended on 26 August 2016 at the Summerdays Festival in Arbon, Switzerland, performing the following month an ultimate show on 10 September 2016 at the BMW Festival Night in Munich, Germany. [15] The line-up for the reunion tour was the same as Simply Red's last formation with the exception of Roman Roth replacing Pete Lewinson as drummer.

On 19 April 2015, the band announced that they would be releasing a new studio album (also) named Big Love , containing 12 new tracks. [16] The new album was released on 29 May 2015.

2016–2017: Stars' 25th anniversary tour

On 11 November 2016, Simply Red embarked in Dublin, Ireland on the "25 Years of Stars Live" tour, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release in September 1991 of Stars by playing live on stage the entire album in its original running order (while the second half of the show featured hits and classic Simply Red songs). The debut date in Ireland was followed by a 10-date UK leg starting on 13 November in Liverpool, England, and ending on 27 November at The O2 in London. [15] [17]

In 2017, they announced they will be playing at the annual Symphonica In Rosso event. [18]

2019: Blue Eyed Soul

The band's twelfth studio album, Blue Eyed Soul , was released on 8 November 2019. [19] It debuted at number six on the UK Albums Chart, selling nearly 10,000 copies in its first week. [20]

Awards and nominations

ARPA Music Awards

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1996 "Fairground"Most Performed Foreign WorkNominated

ASCAP Pop Music Awards

YearNominee / workAwardResultRef.
1987"Holding Back the Years"Most Performed SongWon [21]
1988Won [22]

Brit Awards

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1985 Picture Book Best British Album Nominated
1987"Holding Back the Years" Best British Single Nominated
Simply Red Best British Group Nominated
"If You Don't Know Me by Now" Best British Single Nominated
A New Flame Best British Album Nominated
1992 Stars Nominated
"Stars" Best British Video Nominated
Simply Red Best British Group Won
Mick Hucknall Best British Male Won
"For Your Babies" Best British Video Nominated
1997 Mick Hucknall Best British Male Nominated

ECHO Awards

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1999Simply RedBest International GroupNominated

Goldene Europa

YearNominee / workAwardResult
2000Simply RedGroup of the YearWon

Grammy Awards

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1987Simply Red Best New Artist Nominated
"Holding Back the Years" Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals Nominated
1990"If You Don't Know Me by Now"Nominated

Hungarian Music Awards

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1996 Life Best Foreign AlbumNominated

Ivor Novello Awards

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1992 Mick Hucknall Songwriter of the YearWon
"Stars"Best Song Musically & LyricallyNominated
1996"Fairground"Best Selling SongNominated
2002Simply RedOutstanding Song CollectionWon

Lunas del Auditorio

YearNominee / workAwardResult
2004ThemselvesBest Foreign Pop ArtistNominated

MTV Video Music Awards

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1986 "Holding Back the Years" Best New Artist Nominated

Mercury Prize

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1992 Stars Album of the YearNominated

Music & Media Year-End Awards

YearNominee / workAwardResultRef.
1989Simply RedGroup of the YearWon [23]

Pollstar Concert Industry Awards

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1987TourSmall Hall Tour of the YearNominated
Simply RedNext Major Arena HeadlinerNominated
TourSmall Hall Tour of the YearNominated


Current members
Former members


Simply Red


Studio albums

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mick Hucknall</span> English singer, songwriter and lead singer of Simply Red

Michael James Hucknall is an English singer and songwriter. Hucknall achieved international fame in the 1980s as the lead singer and songwriter of the soul-influenced pop band Simply Red, with whom he enjoyed a 25-year career and sold over 50 million albums. Hucknall was described by Australian music magazine Rhythms as "one of the truly great blue-eyed soul singers", while Q credited him with "the most prodigious voice this side of Motown".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Something Got Me Started</span> 1991 single by Simply Red

"Something Got Me Started" is a song by British soul and pop band Simply Red, released as the first single from their fourth album, Stars (1991). It was released in several forms — a 7-inch single, a 12-inch single, and a CD version, which includes a remix by Perfecto.

<i>Home</i> (Simply Red album) 2003 studio album by Simply Red

Home is the eighth studio album by British pop and soul band Simply Red, released in 2003. It is the first Simply Red album released on band frontman Mick Hucknall's own record label, The album was a success all around the world, and includes the hit singles, "Sunrise", "Fake", "You Make Me Feel Brand New" and "Home".

<i>Life</i> (Simply Red album) 1995 studio album by Simply Red

Life is the fifth studio album by British pop and soul band Simply Red, released in 1995. The lead single "Fairground" became their first number 1 hit in the UK. Due to this success, the album also made #1 on the UK album chart. It also included "We're in This Together", the official theme song for Euro '96. This was also the last album to feature band members Fritz McIntyre and Heitor TP.

<i>Picture Book</i> (Simply Red album) 1985 studio album by Simply Red

Picture Book is the debut album by British pop and soul group Simply Red, released in October 1985. It contains the US number-one single "Holding Back the Years", and a cover of The Valentine Brothers' "Money's Too Tight ". Three other singles were released from the album: "Come to My Aid", "Jericho", and "Open Up the Red Box".

<i>Simplified</i> (album) 2005 studio album by Simply Red

Simplified is the ninth studio album by Simply Red album, released in October 2005. It features new, rearranged recordings of the band's older songs, and four new songs: "Perfect Love" and an alternate version, "My Perfect Love", a cover of Leon Russell's "A Song for You", and "Smile".

<i>Men and Women</i> (album) 1987 studio album by Simply Red

Men and Women is the second album by British pop and soul group Simply Red, released in 1987.

<i>A New Flame</i> 1989 studio album by Simply Red

A New Flame is the third album by British pop and soul group Simply Red, released in February 1989. It was a huge success worldwide, becoming the band's first UK number one album and certified 7× Platinum by the BPI for sales of 2,100,000 copies in the UK alone. The album was also certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

<i>Blue</i> (Simply Red album) 1998 studio album by Simply Red

Blue is the sixth studio album by British band Simply Red. It was released by East West Records on 19 May 1998 in the United Kingdom. Initially conceived as a cover album, it features production from lead singer Mick Hucknall as well as Andy Wright, Gota Yashiki, Stevie J, and Joe "Jake" Carter. Hucknall, Wright, and Yashiki are the only musicians featured in the Blue CD booklet's photography; this is a first for a Simply Red album, as all prior albums featured photos of the various band members credited.

<i>Love and the Russian Winter</i> 1999 studio album by Simply Red

Love and the Russian Winter is the seventh studio album by British pop and soul group Simply Red, released on 2 November 1999. It marks a distinct change from the band's preceding albums, featuring a more computer-generated sound. The album was released mainly due to pressure from their record label to fulfil their contract. It features a cover version of "Ain't That a Lot of Love", written by Willia Dean Parker and Homer Banks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Holding Back the Years</span> 1985 single by Simply Red

"Holding Back the Years" is a song by British soul and pop band Simply Red, released as the third single from their debut studio album, Picture Book (1985). It reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the UK Singles Chart. It is one of two Simply Red songs to reach number one in the US. It also reached number four on the Adult Contemporary chart. "Holding Back the Years" had initially been released in the UK the year before, reaching number 51. The song was nominated in the category of Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at the 29th Annual Grammy Awards.

<i>Stay</i> (Simply Red album) 2007 studio album by Simply Red

Stay is the tenth studio album by British pop group Simply Red. It was released on 12 March 2007 in the UK and entered the official charts at No. 4. Stay features 10 original tracks and a cover version of "Debris" by The Faces.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stars (Simply Red song)</span> Simply Red song

"Stars" is a 1991 song by British soul and pop band Simply Red, released as the second single from their fourth album of the same name (1991). Written by lead singer Mick Hucknall and produced by Stewart Levine, "Stars" became the first single from the album to crack the UK top 10, reaching number eight in December 1991. Outside the UK, "Stars" reached the top 10 in Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg and Zimbabwe and peaked within the top 40 in more than 10 other countries. In the United States it climbed to number 44 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking the band's last appearance on the listing, and reached number eight on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fairground (song)</span> 1995 single by Simply Red

"Fairground" is a song by British soul and pop band Simply Red, released on 18 September 1995 as the first single from their fifth album, Life (1995). Co-written and co-produced by frontman Mick Hucknall, it makes extensive use of a sample of Dutch duo the Goodmen's 1993 hit "Give It Up". It became Simply Red's first and only No. 1 single on the UK Singles Chart, staying at the top for four weeks in September and October 1995, and was also a chart hit in mainland Europe and Australia but failed to generate long-term success in North America.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sunrise (Simply Red song)</span> 2003 single by Simply Red

"Sunrise" is a song by English musical group Simply Red. It was released on 17 March 2003 as the first single from their eighth studio album, Home (2003), as well as the first single from frontman Mick Hucknall's new record label, The song peaked at number seven on the UK Singles Chart, number three in Canada, and number one on the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart.

<i>Tribute to Bobby</i> 2008 studio album by Mick Hucknall

Tribute to Bobby is a 2008 album by Simply Red frontman Mick Hucknall under the mononym 'Hucknall' and was his first solo album. It was released in the United Kingdom on 19 May 2008 and is a collection of songs in tribute to the blues singer Bobby Bland. The album charted at number 18 in the UK Official Albums Chart and spent two weeks inside the Top 75.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">For Your Babies</span> 1992 single by Simply Red

"For Your Babies" is a song by British soul and pop band Simply Red. Written by Mick Hucknall, it was included on the band's forth album, Stars (1991), and reached number nine on the UK Singles Chart in February 1992. It also reached the top 20 in Ireland and the top 30 in Austria and Belgium. The track was included on the band's compilation albums, Greatest Hits in 1996, Simply Red 25: The Greatest Hits in 2008 and Songs of Love in 2010. It was also featured on the band's acoustic album Simplified in a new version.

<i>Big Love</i> (Simply Red album) 2015 studio album by Simply Red

Big Love is the eleventh studio album by British pop group Simply Red. The album was released on 29 May 2015 by East West Records. It is their first studio album since Stay (2007), and the first album to only feature original material since Life (1995). Big Love is also the first album to be released under a new recording contract with East West Records, a label Simply Red previously were signed to until April 2000.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thrill Me (Simply Red song)</span> 1991 single by Simply Red

"Thrill Me" is a 1991 song by British soul and pop band Simply Red. Written by Mick Hucknall and Fritz McIntyre, it was released as the fourth single from their fourth album, Stars. It reached number 33 on the UK chart in May 1992. The single also reached number five in Zimbabwe, number 30 in Ireland and number 58 in the Netherlands. It was later included on the band's compilation albums, Greatest Hits in 1996, Simply Red 25: The Greatest Hits in 2008 and Song Book 1985–2010 in 2013.

<i>Blue Eyed Soul</i> (album) 2019 studio album by Simply Red

Blue Eyed Soul is the twelfth studio album by British pop group Simply Red. The album was released on 8 November 2019 by BMG.


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