Simon Le Bon: Facts About The Duran Duran Frontman

Few bands made quite the impact that Duran Duran did in the 1980s. As iHeart notes, the British new wave group took its name from a science fiction film and quickly became synonymous with catchy pop-rock, fantastical lyrics, and cutting-edge style. Duran Duran's immediate popularity – particularly with teen girls – was due to its attractive members and cinematic music videos as much as its songs, though, decades later, the band's music still endures.

Songs like "Rio," "Hungry Like the Wolf," and "Girls on Film" remain popular to this day. According to NME, Duran Duran will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022, proving that the group's music has had a demonstrable effect on youth culture and rock and roll and was more than just a passing fad.

Much of Duran Duran's success came after the addition of the group's charismatic frontman, Simon Le Bon. The oldest of three boys, Le Bon (born Simon John Charles Le Bon in 1958) is of French Huguenot descent, meaning that, yes, Le Bon is, in fact, his real surname (per Smooth Radio). Known for his model-level good looks, eloquent lyrics, unique voice, and trendsetting fashions, Le Bon once dominated the walls of teenage girls the world over and has become a fixture of rock and roll culture. Here are some facts you may not know about the Duran Duran frontman.

He starred in a commercial at a young age

Simon Le Bon was destined to become a star. According to Stephen Davis in his book "Please Please Tell Me Now," Le Bon spent his formative years in Pinner – a suburb of London – and attended the same grammar school that had previously hosted a young Elton John. According to Le Bon, his mother pushed him to be successful due to advice from an astrologer and her own artistic background. She began enlisting him in auditions for acting gigs when he was just five years old.

In 1963, a young Le Bon starred in a commercial for Persil soap powder. The black and white advert shows two children in white shirts, one donning a brighter shirt than the other. In a 2020 interview with the BBC's Saturday Live, Le Bon joked, "There used to be one kid with a clean shirt and one kid with a slightly dirty shirt who was a bit kind of miserable because his shirt wasn't as clean as his mate's, and that fellow was me."

Le Bon claimed that his mother was on track to become a professional singer but married young and raised a family instead. She instilled a love of performance and music in her eldest son: Throughout his childhood, Le Bon took piano, violin, flute, and drama lessons and sang in a church choir. He credits his mother with his success, stating, "My mother was the most important person in my life, really."

Simon Le Bon was originally in a punk band

While it may seem unbelievable now, Simon Le Bon started his musical career as the frontman of a band whose music he described in a 1987 issue of Spin Magazine as "totally, out-and-out suburban punk." According to Le Bon, 1970s English punk consisted of suburban kids traveling to the cities to perform and not knowing how to get home after their shows.

In an interview with Big Issue, Le Bon explained that he performed with his band Dog Days while attending Harrow Art School between 1977 and 1978. The band was short-lived, playing its first and only show as a supporting act at the art school's gym. The main band would not allow them to set up on the stage, so they had to perform on the floor.

Like true punks, they continued to play even after they had used up their allotted time. The venue cut their power, but Dog Days kept jamming, though only the drums and Le Bon's shouted vocals remained audible. According to Le Bon, the MC said, "Thank you, Dogs***!" as they departed. Despite the harsh feedback, he harbors no ill sentiments towards the experience, telling Big Issue, "But you had to start somewhere."

He worked on a kibbutz in Israel's Negev Desert

Like many artists, Simon Le Bon took creative inspiration from unique life experiences. One of these was working on a kibbutz – or Israeli collective (per Britannica) – for a summer. As Le Bon told the Kibbutz Volunteer Club, he volunteered at a commune in Israel's Negev Desert in 1979 simply to escape Britain and travel somewhere warmer, but it ended up being a life-changing experience for him.

While volunteering at Kibbutz Gvulot near Be'er Sheva, Le Bon primarily worked in the orange groves and learned how to prune and graft orange trees. He also got to operate a raised cherry-picker-like machine to manicure high-up limbs using a hydraulic-powered chainsaw. Le Bon recalls the experience and the people he met there fondly, stating, "I went there because I thought I was just going to get a bit of sunshine. I got so much more than that."

He also found the desert conducive to writing poetry. According to Stephen Davis in his book "Please Please Tell Ne Now," Le Bon penned the lyrics to what would become Duran Duran's "The Chauffeur" while at the kibbutz. In an interview with Vulture, he stated that he wrote the lyrics to the original version of the Duran Duran song "Tel Aviv" in Israel as well. According to Le Bon, "Tel Aviv to a provincial, suburban English boy...seemed terribly, terribly exotic. So, it became a song."

He dressed to impress when first meeting Duran Duran

Simon Le Bon told Big Issue that he was first introduced to the founding members of Duran Duran in 1980 by his ex-girlfriend, Fiona Kemp, who worked as a barmaid at a nightclub called The Rum Runner. The band was looking for a singer, and, as Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes told Stephen Davis in his book "Please Please Tell Me Now," Kemp claimed to know just the guy for the job.

Le Bon's outfit upon first meeting the band has become the stuff of rock and roll legend – and, according to Rhodes, it is no exaggeration. Rhodes told Davis in "Please Please Tell Me Now," "The famous story that he showed up wearing tight purplish-pink leopard print trousers is absolutely the truth." Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor also recalls first meeting Le Bon, describing him as tall, good-looking, and confident.

In his book, "In the Pleasure Groove," Duran Duran bassist John Taylor further elaborated on Le Bon's grand entrance in eloquent detail. In addition to describing his unusual outfit and short, bleached-blonde hair, John wrote, "He was tall and well-spoken, and there was something noble about him. His Huguenot blood, perhaps." He also added that Le Bon was "Shakespeare's idea of a rock star."

Simon Le Bon's poetry became Duran Duran lyrics

In addition to his striking appearance, the members of Duran Duran noticed something else about Simon Le Bon at their first meeting: his notebook. According to keyboardist Nick Rhodes in Stephen Davis's book "Please Please Tell Me Now," Le Bon carried a large ledger book with "ROSOVTROV" written on the front in capital ink letters. The book was filled with poetry. Bassist John Taylor also recalls Le Bon's notebook in his book "In the Pleasure Groove," describing it as "a battered blue book" that was filled with lyrics and song ideas. As Taylor notes, what would become the lyrics to the hit Duran Duran song "The Chauffeur" came from its pages.

In a 2012 radio interview with Matt Everett, Le Bon described pulling lyrics from his notebook to craft a topline for a piece of music the band had written and played for him at their second meeting. He mulled the music over from memory that night and fitted the lyrics to the song. He sang it for the band the next day and it became "Sound of Thunder" – the first song the group composed together. Taylor wrote about this infamous first rehearsal session in his book, stating, "I wrote in my diary that night, 'Finally the front man! The star is here!' The poetry had arrived."

He nearly drowned while filming a music video

With Simon Le Bon as its frontman, Duran Duran quickly rose to mainstream prominence in the early 1980s, the band's popularity fueled in large part by its edgy, big-budget music videos (per iHeart). The 1984 video for Duran Duran's hit song "The Wild Boys" – which featured an apocalyptic scene complete with a futuristic android – was no exception.

In a 2020 interview with the BBC's Saturday Live, Le Bon revealed that he came up with the idea of being strapped upside down to the sail of a rotating windmill and forced to perform while in the stressful situation. The video's director, Russell Mulcahy, loved it and intensified the concept by having the windmill plunge Le Bon's head into a pool of water as it turned. The harrowing scenario became all too real when the windmill malfunctioned, trapping the singer underwater.

While Le Bon downplays the situation's seriousness, the video's choreographer, Arlene Phillips, remembers it being quite terrifying to witness. In a 2011 interview with Birmingham Live, she stated, "The windmill stopped when he was under the water and he couldn't breathe. He was stuck there and they had to send divers in to rescue him ... It was awful, waiting to see if he was okay. I'll never forget it." According to Duran Duran's bassist John Taylor in his book "In the Pleasure Groove," the footage of Le Bon gasping for air after being released appeared in the final video and "made for scintillating viewing."

He sings on Band Aid's 'Do They Know It's Christmas?'

According to Rolling Stone, Boomtown Rats rocker Bob Geldof called every musician he knew to take part in his 1984 fundraising song to help combat famine in Ethiopia. His friend, Simon Le Bon, was one of the first artists he called. In an interview with Stereogum, Le Bon recalled working with Geldof and musician Midge Ure as they wrote the song that would become "Do They Know It's Christmas?," singing most of it on the demo.

When it was time to record the final version, Le Bon assumed he would be singing the majority of the song. He joked to Stereogum, "I thought, 'All these rock stars turned up at the studio, I wonder what they're going to do. Because I'm singing the verses.'" In the end, 46 artists participated in the song as the supergroup Band Aid, including the rest of Duran Duran, Bono, and Boy George (per Discogs).

Le Bon sings fourth on the famous charity song, following up George Michael's verse and briefly duetting with Sting. Le Bon later told Stereogum that their vocal pairing on the Band Aid song led both British singers to realize how well they complemented one another. The two sang together once again on the 1985 Arcadia song "The Promise." Per Smooth Radio, the Band Aid song was a huge success, far exceeding its creators' expectations by raising eight million Euros for Ethiopia in its first year alone.

Simon Le Bon fell in love at first sight

Simon Le Bon met fashion model Yasmin Parvaneh at the height of Duran Duran's career in 1984 when he was just 26 years old. In a 2020 interview with the BBC's Saturday Live, he explained that he had seen a photograph of her and used his rock star pull to arrange a blind date with her. According to Le Bon in a 1987 issue of Spin Magazine, their first date consisted of watching the premiere of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and sharing a bottle of scotch.

The stylish pair hit it off immediately, and Le Bon told the BBC's Saturday Live, "The minute I met her, I just knew that this was the person for me." They married on December 27, 1985 – just over a year after meeting – and remain together as of 2022 (per Smooth Radio). Following two miscarriages, the Le Bons welcomed three daughters: Amber, Saffron, and Tallulah.

He also fronted a band called Arcadia

While Duran Duran was on a mostly amicable hiatus in 1985, its members explored a few side projects. According to The Los Angeles Times, bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor were busy recording music with their funky hard rock band Power Station, leaving the rest of Duran Duran bored and itching to make music. To scratch that itch, Le Bon, along with Duran Duran drummer Roger Taylor and keyboardist Nick Rhodes, formed their own band: Arcadia.

Le Bon described Arcadia to the Los Angeles Times as, "looser, less-structured, and more moody and atmospheric" than Duran Duran's music. He added, "Some things on it are rather dark and esoteric and done in a slower tempo, with jazz touches and Spanish touches here and there. I'm singing a bit lower, too."

Arcadia never toured and only released one album, 1985's "So Red the Rose," which was recorded in Paris and featured contributions by the likes of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and Sting. However, the band did manage to produce the groovy hit single "Election Day." Le Bon told Stereogum that making the record was a great time and that they invited anyone they could to collaborate, saying of the experience: "God, when I think about it, it was extraordinary."

Simon Le Bon loves sailing

Simon Le Bon's passion for sailing began at an early age. In a 2020 interview with the BBC's Saturday Live, Le Bon explained that he took his first proper sailing trip when he was 11, and the skipper even let him sail the boat. His love of the sport continued into adulthood – in fact, the music video for Duran Duran's song "Rio" features Le Bon perched on the bow of a small wooden sailboat.

In 1985, he was competing in the Fastnet Race – an annual 608-mile yacht race off Britain's southern coast – when disaster struck (per Yachting Magazine). According to the BBC, the keel of his 71-foot yacht, Drum, broke off, and the boat capsized in the frigid waters off the Cornish coast. Le Bon was asleep at the time and awoke to find everything wet, upside down, and wreaking of diesel fumes and battery acid.

He and his crew remained trapped in the air pocket beneath the yacht for 40 minutes until help arrived. Speaking with the BBC, Le Bon described the experience as the most dangerous situation he's ever been in and claimed that he "looked into the eyes of death." Following the terrifying ordeal, he hesitantly returned to yacht racing, finishing third in the 1985 to 1986 world-encircling Whitbread Race (per Yachting Magazine). He still sails to this day.

He once sang with Luciano Pavarotti

As the 1980s came to a close, new wave bands like Duran Duran saw a decline in popularity. But, ever adept at musical innovation, the group found a way to stay relevant. According to Stereogum, Duran Duran transitioned into the more somber '90s musical trends by releasing "The Wedding Album" in 1993. Hit songs like "Come Undone" and "Ordinary World" proved that Duran Duran still had mainstream appeal.

As Rolling Stone notes, Simon Le Bon even got the chance to sing some of the band's new material with legendary opera singer Luciano Pavarotti in 1995 at Pavarotti and Friends, the star tenor's benefit concert to aid children impacted by the Bosnian war. Le Bon and Pavarotti performed a moving duet of "Ordinary World," singing in both English and Italian.

Speaking to Stereogum of the Modena, Italy performance, Le Bon claimed that he felt ashamed hearing his own lyrics belted out by Pavarotti – specifically the line "suffering and greed." He admitted, "To this day, I still sometimes hear him singing that in my dreams ... He had that kind of pitching that goes all over the place but the wave depth of his vibrato is so great, it doesn't really matter." He still found the experience incredible.

Simon Le Bon wrote a song for a manga series

Simon Le Bon is a man of many tastes and talents. According to Duran Duran's website, Le Bon and his friend, fellow musician and producer Nick Wood, joined forces with Shinzou Sound – a group of creators focused on manga, web design, music, and popular culture – in 2006. Le Bon and Wood worked together to compose the theme song to an online animated manga entitled "Synesthesia," which tells the story of three characters who formed a band after meeting on a train in its 10 episodes.

The song, "Nobody Knows," was initially released exclusively on the iTunes Music Store Japan. In "The Making of Nobody Knows," Le Bon claims that the song's lyrics center on the pervasiveness of depression and its possible remedies. In the mini-documentary, he explained, "I think it works very well with the idea of 'Synesthesia' because the music is the antidote to the depression in the song."

He is an advocate for ocean conservation

According to Yachting Magazine, Simon Le Bon spent nearly every weekend from May to October at his grandmother's house near Poole Harbour on the south coast of England starting when he was just six years old. This instilled in him a lifelong love of the sea and its creatures.

In a 2020 interview with the BBC's Saturday Live, Le Bon recalled the seas off the eastern coast of Argentina as teeming with life, detailing experiences swimming with pilot whales and watching dolphins leap through bioluminescent plankton while sailing there in the 1980s. Visiting the same seas more recently, Le Bon was dismayed to notice that things had declined over the decades. He told Yachting Magazine, "There is a big difference. Big changes. There isn't as much life." 

Le Bon has long been an ambassador for the Blue Marine Foundation, an organization seeking to combat overfishing and biodiversity loss in the world's oceans. "I want to see lots of different life," he told CNN, "I don't want to see a dead, gray sea floor ... And that's going to take a lot of work."

Simon Le Bon hosts a weekly radio show

Somehow over the course of his 40 years as a recording and touring artist, Simon Le Bon stopped actively seeking out new music. According to a 2020 interview with the BBC's Saturday Live, he began exploring new artists after his daughter Tallulah pointed this out to him. During the 2020 pandemic lockdown, Le Bon started hosting a music show with longtime associate Katy Krassner on Duran Duran's website, highlighting some of his discoveries.

As Forbes notes, the weekly show – named WHOOOSH! for what Le Bon refers to as "the sound of your mind expanding to take on a new idea" – was later picked up by SiriusXM Volume in 2021 and remains on air as of 2022. Le Bon curates the music himself – intentionally showcasing acts with small followings – and has become an industry tastemaker, helping up-and-coming bands like CHAI and Wet Leg break into mainstream consciousness.