Huey Lewis and the News: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Facts
Eligible Since: 2006
Career Grammy Awards/Nominations: 1/5
Career Top 40 hits: 17
Essential tracks: Do You Believe in Love, Workin’ for a Livin’, Heart and Soul, I Want a New Drug, The Heart of Rock and Roll, If This is It, The Power of Love, But It’s Alright
Essential Albums: Picture This (1982), Sports (1983), Fore! (1986), Small World (1988)
Huey Lewis & the News have never been in the discussion for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That’s kind of shocking when you consider that the group scored 17 top 40 hits during the height of their fame, from 1982 to 1991.
Then again, the Rock Hall has traditionally favored a specific type of rock band – the type that Rolling Stone magazine and other old-school rock critics prefer. They like rock bands that are either edgy and badass rule breakers (Sex Pistols), or bands which were innovative and groundbreaking (Radiohead), or straightforward hard rock bands (Foo Fighters.)
For those Rock Hall voters, there isn’t much room for rock bands which have more pop leanings. However, that has been changing in recent years, as bands that topped the pop charts such as Bon Jovi, Chicago, Hall & Oates, and Journey have finally earned induction.
And of course, we’ve had straight-up pop acts like Madonna, Donna Summer, Whitney Houston, and the Bee Gees entering the Hall in recent years.
So with all of that happening, why aren’t people talking about a terrific pop-rock band that scored more than a dozen hits? Why aren’t the guys in the conversation? And what would it take for Huey Lewis & the News to get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Let’s discuss.
Huey Lewis & the News Rock Hall Credentials
The music of Huey Lewis & the News was solidly rooted in R&B and blues. Especially the early stuff. Huey once busked on the streets as a harmonica player and learned to play the blues, and that background would help inform his music over the years.
The Bay Area band’s second album Picture This incorporated elements of soul. Echoes of doo-wop are evident in the harmonies of the group’s first single “Do You Believe in Love.”
Sports was their breakthrough album, spawning five big hits, including four Top 10s. “Heart and Soul” and “I Want a New Drug” both had some rough, dark edges to the music, while “The Heart of Rock & Roll” and “If This is It” were shiny pop-rock tracks that gave the band a massive mainstream audience.
Part of the group’s appeal was that Huey came across as a relatable everyman. Songs like “Workin’ for a Livin'” certainly helped in that regard. Lewis’ voice was strong, clear, and recognizable. Hearing his voice on the radio was somehow comforting. And the group was a mainstay on MTV throughout the ’80s.
The group became big enough to earn an invite from Steven Spielberg to record the theme song to Back to the Future in 1985, and “The Power of Love” became a legit smash. It became their first pop #1 hit and even earned an Oscar nomination.
At one point, Huey Lewis & the News scored 7 straight Top 10 hits, including the chart-topper “Jacob’s Ladder” and the R&B-tinged track “Doing it All For My Baby.”
Over time, their mainstream pop success waned, but they continued recording. Four Chords & Several Years Ago (1994) was a collection of covers of ’50s and ’60s soul music. The highlight was their version of the JJ Jackson song “But It’s Alright,” which missed the top 40 but reached #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
As we consider whether Huey Lewis & the News might earn Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, personality is a consideration. Lewis has always been a likable fellow. In 2018, he revealed that he is suffering from the inner ear condition Ménière’s disease, which makes it impossible for him to hear well enough to sing live. The news resulted in an outpouring of love from fans and other celebrities, such as Jimmy Kimmel.
Not many artists get to witness that kind of public support while they’re still alive, as typically that sort of thing only happens after a performer’s passing. Even those who don’t like his music are rooting hard for the man to recover and hopefully be able to perform again someday.
One more factor that could help the group: As time goes on, more and more mainstream pop-rock bands will become eligible, such as Maroon 5 and even Weezer. I have to think that when Maroon 5 comes up for discussion, voters will think, No way, I’d induct Huey Lewis & the News before I’d induct Maroon 5!
And so, Huey and friends will look better by comparison with some of these modern bands. Voters are likely to see Huey Lewis & the News as more authentic, and more rooted in “real” music given their blues and R&B backgrounds, and that contrast could help their case.
(No shade towards Maroon 5 – I think they’ll have a good shot at induction eventually too.)
The Case Against Huey Lewis & the News
Critics of the group claim their music was lightweight and cheesy. Some of their hits, like “Stuck with You,” do come off as corny years later.
The band loved to show its sense of humor, but that didn’t always work. The video for “If This is It” was about as cornball as it gets.
But, as we’ve noted in our previous Rock Hall analysis of Weezer, Blink-182, and Weird Al Yankovic, a sense of humor is not a bad thing, and shouldn’t work against the artist. The group’s “cheese” factor has to be viewed in the context of the decade. The ’80s were a cheesy time in many ways.
The group incorporated a heavy dose of saxophone into its music, which was common in the ’80s. But that style sounds very dated these days, so that could work against them. Then again, who knows… maybe the sax will enjoy a revival at some point soon, and they could actually benefit from that!
Another challenge for the band is that, because he is the frontman and the namesake, many people essentially view Huey Lewis as a solo artist. Most casual music fans can’t name any of the News members. That could work against them, as voters may (incorrectly) view them as a one-man act.
In fact, the rest of the group were talented and accomplished players. Keyboard player Sean Hopper and drummer Bill Gibson have been with the group since the beginning. So has guitarist and sax player Johnny Colla, who co-wrote many of the group’s hits and shared an Oscar nom with Lewis for “The Power of Love.” But their relative anonymity could work against them.
The other potential valid criticism is the question of which bands Huey Lewis & the News influenced. Their sax-heavy pop sound was out of the mainstream by the ’90s, so most bands that came up in that decade weren’t necessarily influenced by Lewis. Influence is a major factor when it comes to Hall-worthiness.
The Verdict: Will Huey Lewis & the News Ever Get Inducted Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
I believe that Huey Lewis & the News do deserve induction, and I think they will eventually start to earn some consideration. Voters are always going back to take another look at which acts they might have overlooked from the ‘70s and ‘80s, and at some point, Lewis’ resume will be difficult to ignore.
Lewis and the band have 17 Top 40 hits, multiple Record of the Year Grammy nominations, more than 30 million albums sold worldwide. That’s a lot more commercial success than many bands already in the Hall.
The prediction here is that Huey Lewis & the News have a chance to earn Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction eventually, probably at some point in the 2030s or 2040s. Hopefully the whole band will still be around to enjoy it by then.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Huey Lewis & the News
Odds of Getting Inducted Next Year: 1%
Odds of Getting Inducted in the Next Five Years: 10%
Odds of Getting Inducted Eventually: 40%