“The Heart of Rock & Roll”: Huey Lewis and The News’ Eye-Opening Show in Cleveland
The San Francisco Bay Area is home of some of the greatest artists in the history of the rock era: Carlos Santana, The Grateful Dead, Sly & the Family Stone, Journey and Jefferson Airplane among many others. Huey Lewis and the News (HLN), with nineteen Top 10 singles, and over 30 million albums sold, are also on the long list of prolific bands that hail from the Bay Area. With all of its rich musical history, it is understandable why Huey and his bandmates believed that the ‘heart of rock & roll’ was truly the Bay Area, so when they heard people say that the ‘heart of rock n’ roll’ was really Cleveland, Ohio, they were quick to dismiss those claims. When he heard the talk about Cleveland, Huey found it incredulous. “How could people honestly think that Cleveland was the heart of rock & roll, with all the amazing bands that are from San Francisco,” Huey declared. Then, HLN played a gig in Cleveland, and it completely changed their view. Huey remembers how blown away he and the band were by the wonderfully crazy fans that went to their concert in Cleveland. ” It was unbelievable how great they were,” said Huey.
The morning after that enlightening HLN gig in Cleveland, Huey bought a shirt with a graphic of the Cleveland skyline on the front and a slogan that read “Cleveland, You Gotta Be Tough,” and it made him reflect on the exuberant audience at the show, and that what he heard about the city was true- “the heart of rock & roll” is indeed in Cleveland.
There is Rock and Roll Everywhere, especially in Cleveland
The feeling compelled Huey to start writing a song, with the lyrics “the heart of rock and roll is in Cleveland,” but when he presented the lyric to the News as a song title, they didn’t really care for it, so Huey changed the words to the chorus that we now know as “the heart of rock and roll is still beating;’ a slight lyric alteration, with the same beat.
The theme of the song is that there is real rock n’ roll found in places other than LA, San Francisco, or New York City. Even though the original lyric was revised, Huey does give a special shout out to the passionate rockers of Cleveland near the end of the tune, singing “the heart of rock n’ roll is still beatin’… in Cleveland”.
Huey Lewis and The News Sports has 4 Top Ten Singles in 1984
“The Heart of Rock and Roll” was the third single from the blockbuster HLN album Sports. The song peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984. It was one of four Top 10 singles that were released from Sports. The song also went to #5 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart.
Sports sold over 7 million copies in 1984. It was the second best-selling album of that year. To date, the album has sold more than 10 million units around the world.
Johnny Colla Wrote “The Heart of Rock & Roll” with Huey Lewis
HLN’s Johnny Colla wrote “The Heart of Rock & Roll” with Huey, and co-wrote several other of the group’s hit singles- “If This is Love”, “Back in Time”, and the #1 smash “The Power of Love” from the Motion Picture Soundtrack of the 1985 film Back to the Future.
Johnny is a founding member, and a critical part of the success of HLN, playing rhythm guitar and sax, providing backing vocals, and collaborating with Huey on creating the music.
The music video for the tune was nominated for ‘Best Group Video’ at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1985, but It was the long-form version of the music video that won a Grammy the following year, in 1986 for ‘Best Music Video-Long Form.’