“Holding Back The Years” introduced Simply Red to American audiences in early 1986, zooming to the top of the pop charts while also placing respectably on the adult contemporary and R&B listings. Mick Hucknall (who, for all intents and purposes, is Simply Red) wrote the song about his childhood, focusing on the strained relationships he had with his parents. Mick is giving us Patti LaBelle realness with his vocals. You can feel the emotions he put into the song.
That level of emotion might help explain why, the first time I heard “Holding Back The Years”, I thought Simply Red was a) black and b) a woman. I’m not sure if that speaks more to the fact that I was an ignorant nine year old or the fact that Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall is a helluva soulful singer. Can’t it be a little of both?