Huey Lewis spoke candidly about his hearing issues with his hometown paper, The San Francisco Chronicle. Huey Lewis & The News have recently signed a new recording contract with BMG to release their upcoming 10th studio album this spring featuring material the band has been recording over the past decade. Lewis’ roadwork has been indefinitely sidelined after contracting Meniere’s disease — an incurable inner ear disorder, which has rendered him unable to sing.
Lewis, who along with the News, scored a dozen Top 10 hits between 1982 and 1988, admitted to The Chronicle, “For the first two months I was like suicidal. Really, it can drive you absolutely crazy. . . after two months of wanting to blow my brains out and not being able to hear anything.” Lewis compared a typical day’s hearing to be “like listening to everything through a blown speaker.”
Lewis has been focusing on a Huey Lewis & The News musical, The Heart Of Rock & Roll, which had a brief run in San Diego, and he hopes will find a home on Broadway. Lewis talked about being benched due to his hearing: “I don’t miss the road at all, the plane trips, but I do miss my guys. The camaraderie, the fun we have and the laughs — yeah, that’s what I miss. And the actual live performing, which I loved to do. When you’re having a great gig, when it really sounds good and everybody is on the money, you’re in the pocket, the song sings itself. It’s the most fun thing in the world, it really is.”
Huey Lewis recalled appearing earlier this year at a charity show — and everything seemed to once again fall into place: “I realize I can hear the f***ing band! I can hear pitch! I can hear for the first time in eight months! Boom, I sang it. It was great, I could hear everything! Next day, my hearing’s still good. It’s fantastic. Huey’s back! I’m going to sing again! (But a few days later) my hearing goes to s***, and it’s that way for like a month.”
Lewis revealed that losing his ability to perform isn’t the saddest part of the situation at hand: “The worst part about this is shutting my band down, my 25 guys (in the band, the crew, and staff). It’s like a football team, we’ve been working together for 40 years. The truth is, we were still improving. (When you get older) you can be wiser in your music choices, your note choices, and you relax more. It’s not about (vocal) strength or anything like that, and the voice held out, so I think we were as good as we’ve ever been.”
Although Huey Lewis remains one of the most beloved and recognizable hitmakers of the 1980’s — for him the thrill was never about celebrity — but always about the actual work: “I tell people today, y’know, they say ‘I wanna be a musician, how. . . what should I do? How do I make it?’ — and unless it’s the only thing that you wanna do, you should try something else. But if it is the only thing you wanna do, and you really love it, then, y’know, just keep trying. And today, I would be very happy being a harmonica player, playing in town, living more modestly. I have lots of obligations and stuff based on my family and all that stuff — but that’s all due to my success. Had I not had this success, I’d still be perfectly happy playing harmonica somewhere.”