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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Celebrating Simon Le Bon’s musical journey

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I recall feeling great when Duran Duran was finally inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in November 2022. Given the band’s enduring popularity and relevance, it deserved the honor long ago.

The news that Simon Le Bon was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by King Charles adds to the group’s growing legend, solidifying its place in music history.

Simon Le Bon’s voice has been the defining force of the band, from hits like “Hungry Like a Wolf” to “Ordinary World” and the lesser-known “Falling Down.” Nick Rhodes and John Taylor’s distinctive keyboard and bass styles helped shape Duran Duran’s synth-driven, bass-heavy sound. The contributions of Roger and Andy Taylor, along with past member Warren Cuccurullo, completed the band’s iconic lineup.

Duran Duran debuted in 1978 with a self-titled album

Le Bon’s honor outside of the band is a fitting testament to how he has handled his role well, as the title specifically noted his contributions to music and charity. Perhaps more important than his effort for the growth of music – which is saying he’s merely sharing his massive talent and doing his job in the best manner possible – is the fact he is giving back in ways not expected of a rock star.

In his acceptance, he stressed his involvement with “some of the causes I believe in.” He said that the MBE moment helped “raise awareness for the Blue Marine Foundation and the importance of their conservation work.”

A quick check points to Centrepoint, which Le Bon also mentioned, being the United Kingdom’s “leading youth homelessness charity.”

MBE was forever linked to music heroes after Queen Elizabeth II gave the insignia to all members of The Beatles in 1965. The Fab Four got it early in their career, in their early 20s and prior to the release of their fourth studio album “Help,” as George Harrison joked that MBE stood for “Mr. Brian Epstein.”

Epstein was the manager who got them signed to a record label and touring the world. A radicalized John Lennon infamously returned his MBE. Younger generation stars who are likewise recipients include Adele and Ed Sheeran.

Duran Duran, formed in 1978 with Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes as the only constant members, released their 16th studio album Danse Macabre last October. Le Bon, who received an award from the King of England at age 65, called it a “totally unexpected honor.”

Le Bon, married to Yasmin since 1985 and father of three, plans to continue with the band that made him famous. He described his MBE appointment as a bright spot in their “continuing journey.”

Despite side projects like Arcadia and Power Station, Duran Duran’s ability to reinvent themselves has kept them successful over the years. Le Bon’s key contributions include most of the band’s lyrics, often described as “oblique,” and his distinctive singing voice, which features prominently in their greatest hits.

I grew up listening to Duran Duran, influenced by my late older brother, Eulogio Losorata Jr., who loved ‘80s music and would have been thrilled about Le Bon’s MBE. Duran Duran was at their peak when I first became aware of music in the early ‘80s, often compared to The Beatles of their era. I eagerly watched their music videos on a daily show hosted by Long Tall Howard Medina and preferred them over their rival, Spandau Ballet.

In my early years covering the music scene, I had the opportunity to attend a press conference featuring them before a concert in Manila. While I was among the Filipino reporters asked to sit in front of the band members and throw questions, I quickly asked what their take on that rivalry was. Le Bon said in jest, “We won the race!” That’s gold and true.

As a high schooler spending summer in Claveria, a coastal municipality on the island of Masbate where my mother was born, I heard for the first time on the radio something dubbed as a comeback single of Duran Duran. The message of that song has gotten clearer as I grow older: “And as I try to make my way to the ordinary world/ I will learn to survive.”

“Ordinary World” topped the US Billboard Top 40/Mainstream chart and won an Ivor Novello Award in 1994. It reintroduced Duran Duran to a new generation, showcasing them as enduring talents rather than ‘80s pinups. To me and their fans worldwide, Simon Le Bon and the band have always been extraordinary.

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