Singer and Patron of Humanists UK
Born in Pinner, England, Simon Le Bon’s career began at the age of six when he played the boy with the dirty shirt in a British Persil detergent television advertisement. He soon began singing in his local church choir and made his West End debut at the age of 13 in “Tom Brown’s School Days”. Simon was also featured on the full cast album, released by Decca in 1972.
After school, Simon studied acting at the University of Birmingham, a decision that would turn out to be life altering. While dividing his time between acting in school productions and fronting his own punk band, Dog Days, an ex-girlfriend convinced him to try out for a new band on the Birmingham scene, Duran Duran. The group had already gone through a few lead singers but the minute Simon walked in, (as legend has it) with a book full of lyrics and wearing pink leopard skin trousers, the other band members – Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor and Andy Taylor – knew they’d found their front-man, before he even sang a note.
He immediately went to work, soon leaving university to devote himself full time to the band. He had some lyrics already written, which would evolve into Duran Duran songs, including “Sound of Thunder” and “The Chauffeur” (incidentally, one of their most covered tracks). Simon’s vocals identified the band’s early sound. As lead singer, at six foot plus, with a self-effacing punk boy attitude, you couldn’t help but notice Simon Le Bon.
While in his early 20s, Duran Duran were signed to EMI Records after a bidding war between several labels. As a band, they focused on their image, making sure their look and style were of equal importance to their music. Stepping into the studio with Producer Colin Thurston, to create the sound that would define a decade, their eponymous debut was released in June 1981. With hits such as “Planet Earth” and “Careless Memories” the band soon began touring as both headliners in the UK and Australia, and support in the United States. While the band saw themselves as a “cross between Chic and the Sex Pistols”,’ the young girls who gravitated to the band members’ boyish good looks had other ideas. By the time “Rio” was released in 1982, the whole world knew Duran Duran, creating something that journalists would dub “Durandemonium.” Genre-defining videos for hit singles such as “Rio”, Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Save a Prayer,” and “Is There Something I Should Know?” (which entered the UK charts at #1) solidified Duran Duran’s place in music history. “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” was released next, with chart-toppers “Union of the Snake,” “New Moon on Monday,” and “The Reflex,” which reached the #1 position in Belgium, Ireland, Canada, the US and the UK. MTV and Grammy Awards followed, with sold out world tours, platinum record sales, and for Simon, a lead vocal on the seminal charity single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” A Bond theme for “A View to a Kill” was next – the first to chart at #1 – as well as a headlining spot at Live Aid in 1985.
That same year, Duran Duran had a hiatus, with Simon forming the esoteric pop band Arcadia with Nick and Roger. “So Red the Rose” yielded the hit singles “Election Day” and “Goodbye is Forever,” with All Music Guide calling it the “best album Duran Duran never made.”
Simon also took his love of sailing into competition, investing in a boat called “DRUM” and becoming a valuable crew member. During a qualifying run for the Fastnet Race, his boat capsized, trapping Simon and five others in the hull. The Royal National Lifeboat Institute rescued them after another boat signaled for help. His experiences on the boat, which included two legs of the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race, were made into a documentary called “DRUM – The Journey of a Lifetime”, which was released in the late ‘80s. Simon contributed a song to the soundtrack, “Grey Lady of the Sea,” marking his first solo effort away from the band.
In 1986, both Roger and Andy decided that they would not return to Duran Duran, leaving Simon, John and Nick to continue on as a threesome. More resolute than ever, the band joined producer Nile Rodgers of Chic for “Notorious”, the band’s fifth studio album. The first single, “Notorious” was another top ten hit for them. Simon participated in the charity album “Requiem for the Americas”, contributing the song “Follow in my Footsteps,” a duet with The Bangles singer Susanna Hoffs. The line-up continued to put out music throughout the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, releasing “The Wedding Album” in 1993. With hit singles “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone” the record re-acquainted the band with a new audience. In 1995 Duran Duran released an album of covers, “Thank You”, with Lou Reed claiming their version of “Perfect Day” the best he’d ever heard. Later that year, Simon performed “Ordinary World” with Luciano Pavarotti as part of Pavarotti and Friends, Together for the Children of Bosnia, filmed and recorded in Modena, Italy.
In the late ‘90s, Simon began SYN Entertainment, a Japanese music company he founded with business partner Nick Wood and his wife, Yasmin Le Bon. As part of SYN, Simon recorded the song “Dream Boy” for the Mario Van Peebles film “Love Kills” and a cover of The Who’s “Magic Bus”, for a Japanese-only compilation album.
With much anticipation, the original line-up of Duran Duran re-formed in 2001, selling out dates in Japan, Australia, the United States, United Kingdom and more. Signing with Epic records, the five-piece released their first album together in over twenty years, 2004’s “Astronaut”. Received with critical praise and adoration from their legions of loyal fans, the band went on to release “Red Carpet Massacre” (2007), debuting the album with a weeklong stint at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway. 2010 brought the much-admired Mark Ronson produced “All You Need is Now”, which debuted at #1 on the Pop Download Charts in 15 different countries.
As part of Duran Duran, Simon has been awarded six Lifetime Achievement Awards, two Ivor Novello awards – one for the song “Ordinary World,” and one in 2005 from The PRS for Outstanding Contribution to British Music, a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, two Grammy Awards, an MTV Music Award and a Style Award in Milan, Italy recognizing them as style icons of the 20th Century. In 2012, Simon helped to launch a new Children’s Air Ambulance Service, a helicopter service dedicated to transporting critically ill children and babies.
Active on Duranduran.com with his always-witty blogs and book reviews, Simon is also the most popular band member on Twitter, with over 100,000 followers, who enjoy his clever repartee and unique opinions shared in 140 characters.