In the vibrant tapestry of the 1980s music scene, Huey Lewis, the iconic lead singer of Huey Lewis and the News, emerged as a pivotal figure. His band's sound, a blend of pop-rock infused with heart and energy, became synonymous with the era, especially through their contributions to the soundtrack of the cultural phenomenon "Back to the Future." Beyond his success, Lewis, a devout fan of gospel and soul music, nurtures a deep connection to the genre, shaped by the soul radio stations that colored his youth.
Soul music, with its rich tapestry of subgenres, is a universe teeming with hidden gems and underappreciated talents. This genre, particularly during its golden age, saw numerous artists briefly surfacing to record a few tracks, often for meager pay, before vanishing back into obscurity.
In the UK, the Northern Soul movement of the 1970s revived interest in many of these overlooked artists. In contrast, in Lewis' homeland of the USA, soul music often hummed quietly in the background, its richness and depth only fully appreciated by dedicated aficionados and those who tuned into specific radio stations.
Soulful Musical Roots
As a youth in the Bay Area of San Francisco, Lewis found his musical sanctuary in West Coast soul radio stations. It was here he discovered the raw talents of artists like Jackie Wilson, Little Johnny Taylor, and Wilson Pickett.
Among his most revered discoveries was The Rance Allen Group, a relatively unknown gospel ensemble. Formed in 1970 in Michigan by Bishop Rance Allen, The Rance Allen Group later relocated to Ohio. They infused their gospel roots with soul and rock influences, achieving moderate success on the R&B charts in the 1970s but never breaking into the mainstream.
Huey Lewis holds The Rance Allen Group in high esteem, particularly their track 'Ain't No Need Of Crying,' which he describes as a masterpiece of soul music. He praises Rance Allen for his incredible vocal talent and four-octave range, marveling at the sheer talent encapsulated in the group's music.
Lewis recounts his discovery of The Rance Allen Group through the Bay Area's soul station, KDIA, which often played their track 'Ain't No Need of Crying.' This experience, he shares, was transformative, a testament to the profound impact that lesser-known artists can have.