When the summer winds to a close, the legendary Bay Area band will play in our own backyard. "An Intimate Evening with Huey Lewis & the News," a benefit for The Redwoods senior living community, is set for Saturday, September 26 at Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael.
The show is in support of the Redwoods' revitalization campaign, a $32.8 million project to restore and modernize the 41-year old-campus. Founded in 1972 by the Community Church of Mill Valley, the Redwoods provides multi-level, affordable rental housing, services and care to 340 low- and moderate income seniors from across the Bay Area and beyond. Click here for more information about the Revitalization Project.
Lewis was born in New York and arrived in Mill Valley at age four. He attended Tamalpais Valley Elementary for a year and then Strawberry Point Elementary before moving on to Edna Maguire, which was a junior high school at the time. In an expansive Q&A with with author and columnist Joan Ryan at the Throckmorton Theatre in 2010, Lewis recalled that his mother Magda was a regular at Sausalito's famous no name bar, a gathering place in the 60s for beat poets, writers, jazz musicians and an array of free spirits.
"I woke up at the age of nine with Allen Ginsberg in my living room," he said. "She would bring the no name bar home with her every once in a while."
After Edna Maguire, Lewis shipped off to the Lawrenceville School, an all-boys boarding school in New Jersey, where he graduated a year early, scored a perfect 800 on the math portion of the SAT and got into Cornell University. Before going to Cornell, he took a year to travel Europe, hitchhiking all over and developed a love for the harmonica.
After a year and a half at Cornell, Lewis dropped out and came back to the Bay Area. He started a landscaping company and a natural foods distribution business, but kept playing music. He eventually became a member of Clover, a jazz-funk-rock fusion group that developed a following in England in the mid-1970s. Before Clover broke up in 1978, the band played its last gig at the Throckmorton.
Lewis then started a Monday jam session at Uncle Charley's on Paradise Drive in Corte Madera, inviting future News members to join him in his Monday Night Live house band. They eventually recorded a song called "Exo-Disco," a disco version of the theme from the film Exodus, featuring Pee Wee Ellis on saxophone.
The group's debut album garnered no attention. Its next three were just the opposite, riding a wave of MTV hits, from "Do You Believe in Love," and "I Want a New Drug" to "The Heart of Rock & Roll" and "If This is It," to massive success. The band sold tens of millions of albums, and 1983's Sports sold 10 million copies alone. Along the way, they powered the Back to the Future soundtrack, collaborated with some San Francisco 49ers on "Hip to be Square" and Lewis landed a slot on the hit charity single "We Are the World." That moment had Lewis standing shoulder to shoulder with the some of the biggest names in the history of recorded music, including Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and others.
"It was unbelievable," Lewis said. "Normally you wouldn't get to meet all of those people in a lifetime, let alone in one night."
Near the end of the Q&A, Lewis said of Mill Valley: "It's home and it always will be home."
The 411: "An Intimate Evening with Huey Lewis & the News" is Saturday, September 26 at the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael. Tickets are $200 before June 30 and $225 after. Check out the event website for more info, to buy tickets and if you are interested in donating or sponsoring The Redwoods' revitalization campaign. Go here for more info.