Simply Red

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Simply Red
Lead singer Mick Hucknall
Lead singer Mick Hucknall
Background information
OriginManchester, England
Years active
  • 1985–2010
  • 2015–present
Past members

Simply Red are a British soul and pop band formed in Manchester in 1985.[4] The band is led by singer and songwriter Mick Hucknall, who, by the time the band initially disbanded in 2010, was the only original member left.[5] They have released thirteen studio albums, spanning from Picture Book (1985) through Time (2023), all of which have peaked within the top ten on the UK Albums Chart; with the albums A New Flame (1989), Stars (1991), Life (1995) and Blue (1998), along with their Greatest Hits (1996) album, reaching number one. Their 1991 album Stars is one of the best-selling albums in the United Kingdom.[6]

The group released ten songs that have reached the top 10 on the UK Singles Chart, including "Stars", the Fugees-assisted "Angel", "The Air That I Breathe" and "Sunrise", with the single "Fairground" peaking atop the UK Singles Chart. Their singles "Holding Back the Years" and "If You Don't Know Me by Now" both reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100.

At the 1992 and 1993 Brit Awards, they received the award for Best British Group.[7] They have received three Grammy Award nominations, including one for Best New Artist in 1987. Their version of "If You Don't Know Me by Now" won songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff the Grammy Award for the Best R&B Song. The band re-formed in 2015. Simply Red have sold over 50 million albums.[8]


1977–1984: The Frantic Elevators[edit]

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".[9]

1985–1988: Formation and early success[edit]

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 went under a number of names: "World Service", "Red And The Dancing Dead", "Just Red" (after Hucknall's nickname "Red", denoting his hair colour) but Hucknall decided it would sound better with the addition of the word 'Simply'.[10] 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.[11]

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).[9] 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,[9] but after recording one track ("Red Box"), Fryman left the group and was replaced by guitarist Sylvan Richardson, billed 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,[9] 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.[9]

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.[9] 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,[9] 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.[9]

The album's lead single "The Right Thing" was another international hit,[9] 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[edit]

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.[9]

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.[9] 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" (at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in Blackpool), 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 vocalists Dee Johnson and Sarah Brown 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.[12] 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 band and disbanding[edit]

Between 2003 and its disbandment in 2010, the band's core members were Mick Hucknall (lead vocals), Ian Kirkham (saxophone/EWI/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 shows as well as on albums, though in the studio, they were often augmented or replaced by session musicians. From 2003 to 2008, Dee Johnson (backing vocals), Sarah Brown (backing vocals), John Johnson (trombone/percussion) and Chris De Margary (saxophone/flute) also continued to be in the band and have appeared on 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.[13] 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.[14]

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

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".[15] 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.[16] 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 the 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.[17] The new album was released on 29 May 2015.

2016–2018: Stars 25th anniversary tour and Symphonica In Rosso[edit]

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.[16][18]

In 2017, they announced they would be headlining at the annual Symphonica In Rosso event on 25, 26 and 28 October.[19] A live album of the concert, Symphonica in Rosso – Live at Ziggo Dome, Amsterdam, was released on 23 November 2018.[20] The live album debuted and peaked at number 58 on the UK Albums Chart.[21]

2019–2023: Blue Eyed Soul[edit]

The band's twelfth studio album, Blue Eyed Soul, was released on 8 November 2019.[22] It debuted at number six on the UK Albums Chart, selling nearly 10,000 copies in its first week.[23]

To support the album Simply Red announced concert dates for 2021 around the UK and Europe. However, these were postponed to 2022 and 2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[24]

On 22 October 2022, Simply Red released their first remix album, Simply Red Remixed Vol. 1 (1985–2000).[25]

2023: Time[edit]

On 2 March 2023 Simply Red announced the release of their thirteenth studio album, Time, for 26 May 2023. The first unveiled track from the album is "Earth in a Lonely Space", which was already released as a single on 18 May 2021.[26] The lead single, "Better with You", was released on 2 March 2023, accompanying the album's official announcement.[27] Although the band's long-time keyboardist Dave Clayton has recorded some parts for Time and has even played "Better with You" with Simply Red during the final shows of 2022, Clayton's decision to leave the group after almost 20 years (with hopes of being able to spend more time with his family) was announced by the time that the year of 2022 was over. In the months leading up to the release of the Time album, Simply Red have released two further singles - "Shades 22" and "Just Like You" - on 31 March 2023[28] and 27 April 2023[29] respectively. In addition, the band announced an intimate album launch show for 5 June 2023 at the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire in London; this was their only UK performance in 2023.[30] Also, at the Shepherd's Bush show, Mick Hucknall officially introduced Gary Sanctuary to the fans, as Simply Red's new keyboard player.

Awards and nominations[edit]

ARPA Music Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1996 "Fairground" Most Performed Foreign Work Nominated

ASCAP Pop Music Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
1987 "Holding Back the Years" Most Performed Song Won [31]
1988 Won [32]

Brit Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1985 Picture Book Best British Album Nominated
1987 "Holding Back the Years" Best British Single Nominated
Simply Red Best British Group Nominated
1990 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
1993 Won
Mick Hucknall Best British Male Won
"For Your Babies" Best British Video Nominated
1997 Mick Hucknall Best British Male Nominated

ECHO Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1999 Simply Red Best International Group Nominated
2004 Nominated

Goldene Europa

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2000 Simply Red Group of the Year Won

Grammy Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1987 Simply 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

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1996 Life Best Foreign Album Nominated

Ivor Novello Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1992 Mick Hucknall Songwriter of the Year Won
"Stars" Best Song Musically & Lyrically Nominated
1996 "Fairground" Best Selling Song Nominated
2002 Simply Red Outstanding Song Collection Won

Lunas del Auditorio

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2004 Themselves Best Foreign Pop Artist Nominated
2009 Nominated
2010 Nominated

MTV Video Music Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1986 "Holding Back the Years" Best New Artist Nominated

Mercury Prize

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1992 Stars Album of the Year Nominated

Music & Media Year-End Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
1989 Simply Red Group of the Year Won [33]

Pollstar Concert Industry Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1987 Tour Small Hall Tour of the Year Nominated
Simply Red Next Major Arena Headliner Nominated
1988 Nominated
Tour Small Hall Tour of the Year Nominated


Current members

Image Name Years active Instruments Release contributions
Mick Hucknall
  • 1985–2010
  • 2015–present
  • lead vocals
  • occasional acoustic guitar
all releases
Ian Kirkham.jpg
Ian Kirkham
  • 1986–2010
  • 2015–present
  • saxophone
  • EWI
  • keyboards
all releases except Picture Book (1985)
Steve Lewinson.jpg
Steve Lewinson
  • 1995–1998
  • 2003–2010
  • 2015–present
  • bass
  • backing vocals
  • Blue (1998)
  • all releases from Home (2003) onwards
Kenji Suzuki.jpg
Kenji Suzuki
  • 1998–2010
  • 2015–present
  • guitars
  • backing vocals
all releases from Love and the Russian Winter (1999) onwards
Kevin Robinson.png
Kevin Robinson
  • 1999–2010
  • 2015–present
  • trumpet
  • flugelhorn
  • percussion
  • backing vocals
Roman Roth.jpg
Roman Roth 2015–present
  • drums
  • backing vocals
all releases from Big Love (2015) onwards
Gary Sanctuary 2023–present keyboards Time (2023)

Former members

Image Name Years active Instruments Release contributions
Fritz McIntyre 1985–1996 (died 2021)
  • keyboards
  • backing and occasional co-lead vocals
all releases from Picture Book (1985) to Life (1995)
Tim Kellett 1985–1993
  • trumpet
  • flugelhorn
  • keyboards
  • backing vocals
all releases from Picture Book (1985) to The Montreux EP (1992)
Tony Bowers 1985–1991 bass
Chris Joyce
  • drums
  • percussion
David Fryman 1985 (died 2022) guitars
Sylvan Richardson 1985–1987
  • Picture Book (1985)
  • Men and Women (1987)
Aziz Ibrahim 1987–1988
Heitor Pereira 1988–1996 all releases from A New Flame (1989) to Life (1995)
Gota Yashiki
  • 1991–1995
  • 1998–2003
  • drums
  • percussion
  • bass
all releases from Stars (1991) to Simplified (2005)
Shaun Ward 1991–1994
  • bass
  • backing vocals
  • Stars (1991)
  • The Montreux EP (1992)
Dee Johnson 1991–2008 backing vocals all releases from Life (1995) to Stay (2007)
Velroy Bailey 1995–1998 drums
  • Life (1995)
  • Blue (1998)
Simple Minds - Live in Ipswich Regent Theatre 4th May 2015 - 17196403920.jpg
Sarah Brown 1995–2008 backing vocals all releases from Life (1995) to Stay (2007)
Tim Vine 1998–2002 keyboards
  • Blue (1998)
  • Love and the Russian Winter (1999)
John Johnson 1998–2008 (died 2017)
  • trombone
  • percussion
all releases from Blue (1998) to Stay (2007)
Chris De Margary 1998–2008
  • saxophone
  • flute
all releases from Love and the Russian Winter (1999) to Blue Eyed Soul (2019)
Colin Graham 1998 trumpet
Mark Jaimes 1998–2003 (session afterwards) guitars
  • Blue (1998)
  • Love and the Russian Winter (1999)
  • Home (2003)
  • Stay (2007)
  • Big Love (2015)
  • Blue Eyed Soul (2019)
  • Time (2023)
Wayne Stobbart 1998–2002 bass
Andy Wright 1998–2002 (session and production afterwards)
  • keyboards
  • bass
  • Life (1995)
  • Blue (1998)
  • Love and the Russian Winter (1999)
  • Home (2003)
  • Simplified (2005)
  • Stay (2007)
  • Big Love (2015)
  • Blue Eyed Soul (2019)
  • Time (2023)
Dave Clayton.jpg
Dave Clayton
  • 2003–2010
  • 2015–2023
  • keyboards
  • backing vocals
all releases from Home (2003) to Time (2023)
Pete Lewinson.png
Pete Lewinson 2003–2010 drums all releases from Home (2003) to Big Love (2015)



Studio albums

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Schmidt, Veronica (24 October 2007). "Simply Red splitting up after 25 years". London: Times Online. Archived from the original on 16 June 2011. Retrieved 24 October 2007.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  2. ^ Larkin, Colin, ed. (2011). "Simply Red". Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85-712595-8.
  3. ^ "Pop/Rock » Punk/New Wave » Sophisti-Pop". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  4. ^ "Simply Red discography - RYM/Sonemic". Rate Your Music. Retrieved 25 September 2023.
  5. ^ McCormick, Neil (26 October 2007). "Simply Red: Splitting up is never easy". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
  6. ^ "Top 40 Best Selling Albums: 28 July 1956 – 14 June 2009" (PDF). Official Charts Company. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  7. ^ "Simply Red: BRITs Profile". Brit Awards. Retrieved 21 November 2012
  8. ^ "Simply Red to reunite for 30th anniversary tour". BBC. 25 March 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 1089. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  10. ^ "Simply Red | Mick Hucknall FAQ". Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  11. ^ "20 Fun Facts About Simply Red And Mick Hucknall". 20 March 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  12. ^ "Simply Red Singer Attacks Music Industry". 25 March 2003.
  13. ^ "BBC music review of Tribute to Bobby". 20 May 2008. Retrieved 26 June 2008.
  14. ^ "Mick Hucknall – Simply Red – Official Site » Cinema tickets now on sale for 19th December". 1 December 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
  15. ^ "Simply Red announce 30th anniversary tour". Digital Spy. 3 November 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  16. ^ a b "Tour dates". 2016. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  17. ^ "Simply Red to release new album Big Love". Entertainment Focus. 20 April 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  18. ^ "Buy Tickets To Simply Red '25 Years Of Stars' Live! – Don't miss the chance to see Simply Red perform their classic album 'Stars' plus more this November!". 29 September 2016. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  19. ^ "Simply Red | Symphonica In Rosso - Third Date Added". Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  20. ^ "Symphonica In Rosso CD & DVD". Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  21. ^ "Simply Red". Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  22. ^ "Simply Red - Blue Eyed Soul Official Online Store : Merch, Music, Downloads & Clothing".
  23. ^ Jones, Alan (15 November 2019). "Charts analysis: The Script score fifth No.1 album". Music Week. Intent Media. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  24. ^ "Simply Red's 2020 Tour is Rescheduled". Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  25. ^ "Simply Red Remixed Vol. 1 (1985-2000) [2CD]". Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  26. ^ "Earth In A Lonely Space". Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  27. ^ "New album Time". Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  28. ^ "New song Shades 22". Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  29. ^ "SIMPLY RED RELEASE NEW SINGLE 'JUST LIKE YOU'". 27 April 2023. Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  30. ^ "SIMPLY RED ANNOUNCE INTIMATE LONDON SHOW". 11 April 2023. Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  31. ^ "Billboard" (PDF). 6 June 1987. p. 24. Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  32. ^ "Billboard" (PDF). 4 June 1988. p. 5. Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  33. ^ "Music and Media" (PDF). 23 December 1989. Retrieved 13 March 2022.

External links[edit]