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'A bottle of vodka meant more to me than a woman' admits Simply Red's Mick Hucknall

by ANGELLA JOHNSON - More by this author » Last updated at 13:18pm on 15th April 2008

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Mick Hucknall enters the room wearing the face of a man suffering sleep deprivation.

The Simply Red singer's blue eyes are just a shade off their usual sparkle and, despite an aura of contentment, he looks weary.

With his reputation as a serial bed-hopper and drunken nightclub trawler, one could be forgiven for concluding that the star is suffering the after-effects of some hell-raising excesses.

A new flame: Mick Hucknall's enthusiasm for his music is burning afresh after leaving his years of excess behind

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Hucknall is, by all accounts, a changed man.

Where once his little black book would have been full of the names of beautiful women, including a sprinkling of supermodels, there is now only room in his life for two – his partner Gabriella Wesberry and their nine-month-old daughter Romy.

Romy, a bouncy redhead with the chubbiest cheeks, is teething.

And, as the couple have refused to hire a nanny, Mick is sharing the job of getting up in the middle of the night to care for her.

It's hard work but being a father is, he says proudly, the most rewarding experience of his life.

These days, the 47-year-old insists he is more comfortable pushing a pram and spending nights in with his family than hitting the nightclubs or the bottle.

"I can't remember the last time I went clubbing," he says. Then he recalls:

"Actually, I think it was about five years ago."

This is quite a volte-face for a man who had always eschewed the idea of settling down.

That is, until his colourful lifestyle imploded in November 2000, when he was accused, falsely it turned out, of rape.

Realising that his life was spiralling out of control, Hucknall decided to clean up his act.

"Most men hit middle age and rush to buy an expensive sports car," he says.

"I thought it was time to settle down and start a family." Now there are changes in his professional life, too.

At a time when he could be resting on the multi-platinum laurels of a successful career, he has decided to launch himself as a solo artist.

After 25 years and 50million albums, Simply Red will disband after one final tour next year.

Meanwhile, Hucknall has just released his first album, Tribute To Bobby – a collection of soul classics originally recorded by the legendary American artist Bobby 'Blue' Bland – under his own name.

It has been a long journey since the Manchester-born singer formed Simply Red with five session musicians in the early Eighties.

The band had their first UK chart hit with Money's Too Tight (To Mention), which reached No13 in 1985, and within six months Hucknall had been propelled from the dole queue to rock millionaire.

Other hits such as Holding Back The Years, If You Don't Know Me By Now and Stars followed.

Stars is considered by many to be Simply Red's finest album and next week The Mail on Sunday is giving it away absolutely free.

Released in September 1991, and another UK No1 success, the album includes the singles Stars, For Your Babies, Something Got Me Started, Your Mirror and Thrill Me.

I meet Hucknall at his luxury £3.5million mansion in the grounds of a golf course in Surrey.

Knocking back a glass of milk, plain yogurt and salt, he has just returned from taking Romy for an early-morning walk in her stroller so that Gabriella can have a lie-in.

It is a picture of happy domesticity that is, frankly, difficult to reconcile with the public image of a man who has spent most of the past two decades revelling in the archetypal rock 'n' roll lifestyle.

"That's all a long time ago," he says. "I'm an expert on all things baby now.

"Everything we do revolves around madam. It's been quite exhausting, juggling things around her.

"Not that I'm complaining. Everything about her makes me happy. I love her smile, her facial expressions.

For your babies: Mick and Gabriella take young Romy for a walk

"From the moment I saw her, I fell completely under her spell and she's had me transfixed ever since.

"I picked her up and cut the cord – it was incredibly moving. The first thing I noticed was that she has my hands."

He raises his hands to reveal elegant, long digits.

"It's been wonderful to watch this little person develop. She does something different every day: a new look, a new sound, it's all surprisingly wonderful.

"She was a breech birth, so they had to do a Caesarean, and she had to wear a harness for six weeks to keep her hip joints in their sockets.

"But neither she nor Gabriella was ever in any danger.

"I'm just glad that she's come into my life when I have the time to bond with her.

"I've heard so many musicians comment with sadness about the important events they missed in their children's lives because they were away from home so much.

"I think that's sad. Romy goes everywhere with us. I hope she's musical.

"If so, I will do everything I can to encourage and nurture her talents."

He shakes his head in wonderment at his good fortune.

"I can't believe that I've been so blessed. It was a long time coming but the joy I now feel is way beyond anything I had imagined."

Hucknall may be one of Britain's most successful singer-songwriters, with a £40million fortune and 22 British hits, but only now has he found the kind of personal happiness he has always sought.

Today, he is fit, lean and, he says, "enjoying the best time of my life".

Yet just seven years ago, he considered killing himself after being falsely accused of rape.

A woman told police she had been assaulted by him while he was out clubbing in the West End with friends, including former lover Martine McCutcheon.

Officers searched his Surrey home and he was briefly detained.

As the sensational story made headlines around the world, he shut himself away and sank into a deep depression.

"It was the only moment in my life that I ever contemplated suicide," he says.

"I'm not proud of it but the feeling of shame, even though I knew that the allegation was false, was so intense.

"I thought that I would never get over the public humiliation of such a foul lie.

"It was the lowest point of my life. I was devastated. Even now, I think it's disgusting that the law meant that my name was brandished around the world, even though I was never charged or prosecuted, while the accuser was allowed to stay secret.

"It feels as if I got shot and no one was prosecuted for firing the gun," he adds.

"I pulled back from suicide because it seemed a futile and cowardly way out."

Perhaps the only upside to this painful episode was that it spurred Hucknall to make dramatic changes to his life.

"I had already started to move away from the crazy bachelor lifestyle," he explains.

"I realised that there was a huge, empty part of me that could not be assuaged through drink and women. I was drinking heavily and feeling unhappy."

At one point he was a lonely and bloated figure, wasting his talents in search of fun.

"Frankly, I had started to get bored with it even before the rape allegation," he says.

"I'd find myself at 3am ordering yet another bottle of booze and getting totally drunk.

"I realised I'd rather be with a bottle of vodka than a woman."

Shortly afterwards, Gabriella walked back into his life.

The couple had first met ten years earlier but split after 18 months.

"That was the biggest mistake of my life," says Hucknall.

"I think I had a fear of commitment. I was too immature to realise that I had found my soul mate."

They were reunited in 2002 and remain besotted with each other.

"I was very lucky to get her back because I always knew she was for me, I just had to grow up," he enthuses.

"Now I can't imagine being with anyone else. I'm not even interested in looking at other women.

"All I ever think about is her and Romy. We are already trying for another baby."

Gabriella, an elegant Austrian art dealer, is about ten years his junior. She runs their wine business – Hucknall owns a vineyard on the slopes of Mount Etna and produces about 150,000 bottles of red and white each year.

Some commentators have linked the singer's past womanising – model Helena Christensen, actress Tracy Shaw and Catherine Zeta-Jones were among his many lovers – to the fact that his mother Maureen walked out when he was three.

Hucknall says: "I wish I had known my mother but I've only met her once as an adult.

"I don't hold any rancour against her but I only have room in my life for people who were there for me.

"I've forgiven her but that's it. I'm very happy with the family I already have."

Having found stability in his personal life, Hucknall is now seeking recognition for a different kind of music.

"I want to be more influenced by R'n'B of the Sixties and try to invent a new form of music," he says.

"I realised that it didn't really sit with the Simply Red sound.

"After 20-odd years, people view those songs as benchmarks in their lives. And as great as that is, it's kind of restrictive if you want to make new music."

Bobby Bland, a little known American blues and R'n'B artist from the Fifties and Sixties, is, he says, one of his top ten musical influences.

As he embarks on this new musical challenge, Hucknall is secure in the knowledge that he has found the personal fulfilment he long sought.

"Gabriella and Romy are my main priority," he says.

"Whatever happens, they will always keep me grounded."

Comment Add your comment | View all Comments (7)

7 people have commented on this story so far. Tell us what you think below.

Here's a sample of the latest comments published. You can click view all to read all comments that readers have sent in.

I have the new album but what disappointed me was that Fairground was not on it which is my favorite song... but otherwise this is a brilliant album.

- Julie, Lincolnshire

Great article! I'm so happy Mick is happy and loves being a Dad! Good luck and best wishes to them all!

- D, PA USA

I am delighted for them all...he is the most talented singer I have come across in a long time and the fact that he wants to be a hands on dad...one of the most sensible.

Enjoy every minute and I wish them all well.

- Susan, Warrington

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