In May 1982, San Francisco-area band Huey Lewis and the News notched their first Top Ten pop hit with “Do You Believe in Love,” a song written by Shania Twain’s future (and now former) producer and husband, “Mutt” Lange. Taken from the group’s sophomore LP, Picture This, the song was followed by two more singles, including the energetic “Workin’ for a Livin’,” which peaked just outside the Top 40. Lewis and company would enjoy a huge commercial breakthrough with their next album, 1983’s Sports, which topped the chart and spawned four consecutive Top Ten singles, including “I Want a New Drug” and “Heart and Soul.” The original nine-track version of the LP also contained a lively cover of the Hank Williams classic “Honky Tonk Blues,” featuring Doobie Brothers and Southern Pacific member John McFee on steel guitar.
Lewis would revisit country music later, first with a 2001 duet, “I’m Not in Love Yet,” featuring Wynonna, then in 2007, with his participation in a “Workin’ for a Livin’ remake by Garth Brooks, who, while he was still retired from touring, had taken control of his recording catalog. In November 2007, Brooks issued a budget-priced two-CD set with an additional DVD, releasing it on his own Pearl Records label. Titled The Ultimate Hits, the CDs featured a majority of his previous hits, boasting 34 tracks, four of which were newly recorded. “More Than a Memory,” the collection’s first single, debuted at Number One. Released as the follow-up, “Workin’ for a Livin’” featured Lewis singing as well as playing harmonica, a distinct feature of the 1982 original.
“Garth called me and said, ‘How ‘bout it? I said, ‘Anytime, anywhere, you name it,’” Lewis recalls in a behind-the-scenes interview on the set of the music video, shot by director Jon Small at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Fun fact: Years before he was elected U.S. president, Georgia resident Jimmy Carter worked as a ticket-taker at the venue). The high-octane clip features 10 NASCAR vehicles appearing to whiz past the two performers on the racetrack at speeds of up to 180 miles per hour, with Lewis joking, “If one of us gets killed in the shoot it’ll be really good for the other guy.”
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In reality, the two entertainers — and the cars’ drivers — were never in any danger as technology was used to mix the shots together. A later shot, however, with the cars trained to stop well behind both singers, accelerated the drama when two vehicles nearly collided not far from where Lewis and Brooks were standing. Still, with Atlanta’s temperature hovering around 104 degrees, the track hitting 126 degrees, and temps inside the vehicles even higher than that, Brooks and Lewis had to sit inside the director’s rented air-conditioned Cadillac to keep their makeup from melting. Ever the daredevil, Brooks ran the car around the racetrack a few times then switched places so Lewis could take a few laps, at an even higher speed.
Released in December 2007, on the heels of Brooks’ nine-show concert series in Kansas City in early November, the duet version of “Workin’ for a Livin’” would peak at Number 19, taking it one spot higher than the highest position the Lewis original had achieved on Billboard’s Top Tracks (now Mainstream Rock) survey in 1982. For Brooks, it was his highest-charted single for a decade, until 2017’s “Ask Me How I Know” from the Gunslinger LP.
On February 14th, 2020, Huey Lewis and the News will release Weather, marking their first all-new collection of music in 19 years. Taken from the LP, the track “While We’re Young” was issued this week as the follow-up to “Her Love Is Killin’ Me.”
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