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EXTRA! Huey Lewis

Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley
The Truth Network Radio
January 29, 2020 12:00 am

EXTRA! Huey Lewis

Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley

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January 29, 2020 12:00 am

John Blackstone's extended interview with Huey Lewis and the News front man, who says their upcoming album, "Weather," will likely be their last, due to his debilitating symptoms of Meniere's disease, which has affected his hearing.

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Let's partner for all of it. Learn more at Hi, I'm Lee Cowan, and this is Sunday Morning Extra, our podcast featuring a memorable story from our latest show. The hit songs recorded by Hugh Lewis and the News, The Heart of Rock and Roll, Hip to be Square, Heart and Soul, If This is It, are a part of the soundtrack of our lives.

But life as Hugh Lewis knew it dramatically changed in an instant not long ago, as he tells John Blackstone in this week's conversation. So, let's begin. Weather coming out February 14th, Valentine's Day. That's right. Is that planned that way? Well, it is.

It is. It's not by me, planned by the record company, but yeah, I suppose. So, but this is an album that's been a long time.

It has. Coming together. Yeah, I mean, you know, we had been working on this record sort of as we could. We do 75 shows a year where we're doing 75 shows a year, roughly. And so, there's not a lot of time.

You know, there's travel, so that's 100 and some. But we would record when we had an idea, and we'd been stockpiling stuff for probably 10 years, and we had seven things done, pretty much recorded. And then, you know, I lost my hearing almost two years ago now. I had lost my right ear. I was diagnosed with a thing called Meniere's disease 30 years ago, and I lost my right ear.

And then, two years ago, I lost my left ear. And I can still, it fluctuates. So, there are days when I can still hear okay, and then there are days when I'm just virtually deaf. And the trouble is I can't hear music to sing to because music is harder to listen to than speech because it occurs in all, even one note occurs on all frequencies with overtones and harmonics and all that.

So, it distorts for me, and I can't find pitch. I think when I'm, when I hear my hearing's good, I might be able to, but the point is moot because I can't book a show ahead of time because by the time I get, you know, I've tried to book two rehearsals, and when I book, and then days before the rehearsal, my hearing crashes again, and I can't sing. So, this isn't a matter of kind of standard deafness?

Right. No, no, it isn't. Although, you know, they don't really know what Meniere's is. If you have vertigo, which is the major symptom of Meniere's disease and the most debilitating one, which I have had and now seem to have outgrown almost, and if you have fullness in your ears and a tinnitus or, you know, the ringing in your ears, they call it, and hearing loss, usually in one ear, they throw you into a debris box that they call Meniere's. So, they really don't know what it is, and, you know.

Don't know what it is and don't know what to do about it. Don't know what, there's no, there's no known cure for Meniere's, and there's, there are treatments to treat the severity and the frequency of the vertigo bouts, but there's no treatment for the hearing loss. And so the hearing loss, it's not just that you can't hear, it's that things are distorted horribly. Yeah, I mean, like right now, I'm having a good day. Yesterday was a really bad day, and now I'm having a good day today. So, could I hear music, you know, kind of if it was quiet and I'm just playing to a piano, but could I play a show where there'd be a loud PA?

Level is the devil. Probably not because a bass part, which would normally sound like, to me sounds like. So, there's this resonance, they call it distortion, and when it occurs in music, it's like cacophony for me.

I can't hear anything. And this happened to you, although you'd had some symptoms years ago, this set in very suddenly. Oh, just before a gig in Dallas, Texas on January 27th, 2018.

So, two years ago, thereabouts, yeah. Haven't been able to sing since. What was it? So, you were about to go on stage? About to go on stage, and I went on stage, and it was horrible.

It was just unbelievable. Couldn't hear anything, sang out of tune, had the worst night of my life. The band know what you were going through?

Oh, yeah. On first note, I couldn't find pitch. I was completely out of tune.

Like a half step, I couldn't hear anything. It was a nightmare. But a greater nightmare, in some ways, was having to cancel all these years. All those shows. All those shows.

We canceled all the shows. And I got to tell you, I mean, you know, the hard part for me, I mean, I don't miss playing five shows a week, you know, and traveling all the way, at my ripe old age, but I do miss playing a show now and then, and I miss the guys. I miss the camaraderie, you know. And not just the band members.

I mean, there's others behind that as well. And, you know, the fans have been amazing. I mean, the fans have been, the letters and the empathy and the support I get is amazing.

And that's another, you know, there's some silver lining to this, Cloud, and that is that I've really slowed down, stopped, you know. I was so busy touring and recording and that kind of stuff, that I never really read all the fan mail, never really absorbed what our music had kind of meant for people. And reading these letters and cards and stuff about my thing, it's amazing. I mean, it's really gratifying how much music can mean to someone, you know, and it really feels great. You didn't realize the music was having that impact on so many people? Not really. I mean, I know people like it and I get things like that, but I'm so busy making music and worrying about our band and stuff. I never really contemplated it.

I never really read, I never really, I didn't give it enough thought, to be honest. And now I'm amazingly grateful for the career that we've had, you know. And for the lives you've touched, for the lives you've touched, and the fans, yeah. So on the seven songs on the on the new album, six of them, I'd say, are very much Huey Lewis. Right. And there's a country song.

It's true. How'd that come about? Well, there's a guy called Dave Cobb, who's a great record producer in Nashville. He produced Chudagenics, Chris Stapleton, and I don't know, I don't know if he produced Chudagenics, Chris Stapleton. And he asked to take a meeting where we have a mutual friend and he said, let's have lunch. So I had lunch just to meet him because I admire his work. And he, at the end of the lunch, said, hey, by the way, I'm producing a Willie Nelson record and I'd love you to write a song for, try and write a song for Willie. I thought, really?

Me? Write a song for Willie Nelson? And I said, well, thanks very much, but flattering.

And I didn't think another thing of it. And like two or three weeks later, I woke up from a dream almost in the morning and I had the whole idea for the song in my head for Willie. And so I called him up and I said, hey, I think I got an idea. He said, great, put it down and send it to me. I said, well, you could do it. I'll just give you tell the idea because I'm on the road here and I got nowhere to record.

He's all man. Just do it. Just put it on a thing.

Oh, OK. He wanted me to do it. So I got with Johnny and Chris and James Hara and we cut a little demo and then we we actually recorded it on the road. We had the drums, put the drums on it, did everything on the road and then send it off to Dave. And I don't think he got the gig.

He never got the gig. So that was the end of that. So what were we going to do with it? And what happened is our drummer, Bill Gibson, heard it when we recorded the demo and he said, I think we should do it. I think we'd be great. And I said, really, Billy?

Yeah, I think we should try it. So as I contemplated us doing the song, I thought about it and I realized that I'd written this song, I thought from Willie's perspective, but actually was the story of my life. I was thinking exactly that. It's with the boys, is it? One of the boys.

One of the boys. It's autobiographical. It's completely autobiographical.

It's exactly the story of my life. Go figure. And particularly at this time.

Particularly at this time. That's right. That's right. But I've always loved real country music. You know, we had Honky Tonk blues on our sports album and it's a country song.

So it's not the first time. So, well, and you are a country gentleman now to a large extent, aren't you? Well, because I live in Montana. Yeah. Is that, well, that was the first place, once you had money, you bought the place in Montana.

That was a long time ago. More cheese, less rats. What about now? What's the, has it become more important to you with your hearing condition? Living in a place that's kind of quiet and secluded?

Yes. And, and, and when my hearing condition is bad, you're much better by yourself because there's nobody that you can't hear. And, you know, when I'm by myself, I don't realize that my hearing is bad. I can read books. I can do, you know, I can, I can ride my horse. I can fish.

I can play golf. All these things don't, you don't need to hear a lot to do. So, you know, I do a lot of individual, you know, alone stuff. You can do that, but you can't sing.

Yeah. And what is that like to realize after a lifetime of singing? Well, you know, when I contemplate it, it makes me really depressed. But I try, I haven't given up. I, I, because my hearing fluctuates like crazy. And when it's good, like today, I feel like I could almost sing. You know, in fact, I have on, on two occasions in these last two years when my hearing was good and I was, and once was at a golf tournament in Scotland and there was a band and they had a gala on Saturday night and they asked me to sing a song, but it's a quiet band and there's not a big loud PA. And, and, and I was fine. And my hearing was good.

So I haven't given up. If I think, if I could stabilize, if I could maintain my hearing when it's his best, if it could stabilize there, then I would try and find a way to sing again. In the way that you're able to record today, tracks, I mean, would it be possible for you? It might be, it'd probably be easier for me to record.

Yeah. Because I can put the cans on and I can fine tune them. And, and probably, probably could, especially when my hearing is good, probably could record. Playing live is the hardest part though, because the hall itself is so loud.

You see in level is the devil. When it gets too loud, it all just goes to cacophony for me. I can't hear anything. I can't pick out pitch. And, and in a, in a big venue, it's not even the band that's loud.

It's the PA system that's throwing everything out there. So I don't know if I can do that or not. Right now, I couldn't, but like I say, I'm, you know. Haven't given up on recording. I'm hoping, I'm hoping. So weather may not be the last. Wouldn't that be nice? Wouldn't that be nice? Yeah. I don't know. I don't know.

We're just, we're, you know, I don't know. When you're writing, do you hear music in your head? Does it change the way I hear it in your imagination? In your imagination, you hear it. I hear it fine in my head. And I can even sing. I can kind of sing a little bit, but I can't sing to anything because I can't, I can sing to one little, if it's quiet and I can hear pitch, I can sing to an iPhone. I can hear pitch on an iPhone.

I can hear pitch on a computer, but as soon as it gets, because it's condensed and it's, it's compressed and it's small, but as soon as it gets big, I'm, I'm, I'm at a loss. So this is the one time I'm sure you'll be releasing an album, but then you can't go out and support the tour on the road. Yeah, it's too bad. It's too bad. Yep.

And you know, and everybody would like me to and no more, no, nobody more than me, you know, but it ain't gonna happen right now. So this happened to you first, just after sports came out. Was that right? I mean, you guys were just hitting it big and that, was that when you were first? I guess, well, let's see, at first, the first, I had a vertigo incident, maybe, probably right then, maybe even before sports, maybe 82. My first intense vertigo was in New Hampshire before a gig. And I, I just was violently ill, threw up. They had to take me to the hospital and miss the gig. And then I lost my right ear after sports, probably, probably 84, 85, kind of in there. And I went to the ENT.

There was a famous ENT guy who my, my father was a doctor and he recommended this ENT guy. And I went to see him and the guy looked at my ears. He said, get used to it. I said, what?

He said, get used to it. You're, you know, you're hearing one ear. You only need one.

I said, what do you mean you only need one? He said, I'm a musician. He says, Hey, Brian Wilson had one ear.

Jimi Hendrix had one ear. He says, I have one ear and I'm a, I'm in a barbershop quartet. I said, really? He said, yeah. I said, okay. And I, and he's right. I lived on one ear.

I can't hear stereo very good, but I lived basically on one ear from 85 till now. Did you worry along that way that this would happen? Yeah. I don't, I don't, I'm just not like that. I don't, I don't worry. I probably should have worried.

Probably should have worried a little more. And, but I didn't, you know, I've, I don't know. I still think I'm maybe going to get better. I think I deluded myself a little bit. How many things have you tried to me?

I mean, there's a lot of remedies remedies. Well, I've been to on the Western side of things. I've been to house here Institute. I've seen two doctors. They're both great doctors Slattery and Luxford. I've seen Nick Blevins at Stanford ear Institute.

I've seen Colin Driscoll at the Mayo clinic was a wonderful, very talented doctor. They, they, those two convinced me that it wasn't auto-immune. That was many years. That's another long, deep story. Got me off all the drugs they were trying to put me on. Cause I saw, saw a rheumatologist and all this stuff, but got, got me on that. And then I saw, and I talked to Dr. Steve Roush, who's maybe a mentor for a lot of these guys, Aaron toward Dr. Aaron toward at UCSF has become a really big help for me. And then that's all on the Western side and they agree with each other.

They know each other and they're not happy. They're not afraid to say, Hey, you know, Bill Luxford told me, he says, you know what the proper diagnosis for what you have is. I said, no, I just, we don't know. So then I also tried the holistic stuff. I've had chiropractic and acupuncture and I've tried low salt, no caffeine, no chocolate diet. I've tried different kinds of Eastern protocols with supplements, living Ayurveda for a few months.

And I did another protocol of 20 supplements in the morning and 16 at night for 90 days. No help. You know, I've tried lots of stuff.

I've tried plenty of plenty of stuff. Yeah. Still trying. I mean, still willing to, you got anything? Not a thing.

I'm sorry. What you, what you do have, you have golf and fishing. True.

And you can spend a lot more time doing those now, right? And I have, and I have, but you know, everybody says, well, it doesn't affect your golf. You know, it doesn't affect your fishing, but it does, you know, because it affects everything. Well, my hearing is crappy. It's just, it's just horrible. It's I'm in my little cocoon because I can't hear you.

I can't hear anything. And so I just exist in my own world. You know, It changes daily. It can change daily.

Well, it's episodic actually. It's bad for a week, maybe, or two weeks. And then it can be good for a while, but it can be only two days or a day. But usually it's, it's more like a week. And I just came off a good spell of nine weeks and I thought, hang on, this is going to be great. I'm going to be better. And eight weeks into it, or seven weeks into this, it had been seven weeks and my hearing was pretty good. I called a rehearsal. Four days before the rehearsal, crash.

It's just weird. When you wake up in the morning, I mean, is this sort of the first thing you realize when you wake up in the morning? First thing I do is I do this. I scratch my pillow. I go, and I can tell how my hearing is just by that.

Because see, I can hear that, but when my hearing is bad, I can't even hear that. So I know, and I know all the various levels in between. I call it one to ten, ten being what it was before two years ago. And I was, I've been as high as a six since then. And a six is pretty good.

I'm a five today. And I know this because my hearing is and I know this because my hearing aids have little, have tones in them. It's five tones. And an octave.

So it's really just an F chord. And I can hear it. When my hearing is good, I can hear all five tones. When my hearing is below three, I hear no tones.

Zero. If my hearing is a three, I can hear the top tone. If my hearing is four, I get I get the last two, you know? And so I really know, and over two years, I mean, I've just gotten so good. I can literally go like this. I'll bet I'm a four.

And I'll put in my headphone and go, sure enough, I'm a four. Is technology helping this somewhat then? Well, the best part about technology is texting.

Email. Texting. I can text my kids all the time. And my kids are the best part of this whole thing.

They've helped me through all of this. But I can text. You know, I think about that. I mean, 10 years ago, you couldn't text. So I can communicate. Don't have to make a phone call. Exactly. And not only that, when somebody calls and leaves a message, a phone message that I can't hear on the phone, it's transcribed for me now.

Fantastic. Still, hearing is not overrated. It's a good thing to do. No, but you know, but it's not it's not a death sentence either. You know, there's other things. I mean, I have to kind of remind myself of that. I mean, I can see you could lose your sight. You lose. I mean, these are the things one contemplates, you know? But yeah, you know, it's unfortunate, but it's not the end of the world.

Hard rock and roll. So do now streaming. I used to believe in progress that no matter what we do, we just end up back at the start.

We're in crazy time. The Paramount Plus original series The Good Fight returns for its final season. The point isn't the end. The point is winning. There are bad people in the world. The best way to protect the good people is to convict the bad. So here's to us. The Good Fight, the final season, now streaming exclusively on Paramount Plus.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-28 07:34:03 / 2023-01-28 07:43:12 / 9

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