Lee DeWyze Has Pre-’Idol’ History With ‘Simple Man’

Brian Friedopfer recalls singing the Skynyrd tune with Lee at karaoke.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Illinois — When Lee DeWyze sang Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” on Tuesday night’s “American Idol,” somewhere in the greater Chicago area, Brian Friedopfer was freaking out.

That’s not surprising, because the “Idol” finalist’s low-key hometown pal has a deep history with DeWyze and the song, which Lee has been playing in his live shows for years. Along with his knockout take on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” the Skynyrd ballad might just have given former paint-store clerk and high school hellion Lee a lock on a title shot in the finale.

“We used to go to this karaoke bar, Potato Creek Johnny’s, and I started bringing [Lee] and a good buddy of his, Vince … and I used to sing ‘Simple Man,’ ” Friedopfer, 27, told MTV News last week during a viewing party at the Fox and Hound Smokehouse, where more than 100 of DeWyze’s friends and family had gathered to cheer him into the top three. “That used to be my song.”

Then, one night, Lee chose the 1973 Southern-rock standard at Johnny’s, and when Friedopfer showed up, his pals told him that DeWyze had already grabbed “his” tune. “Well, after Lee sang it, the second I heard him sing one note I was like, ‘I can never sing the song again,’ because there is no way I will ever come near him, and ever since then we joke about it.”

They’ve dueted on the ballad a few times since and Friedopfer has turned it into a running joke. “Whenever I think of Lee, I think of ‘Simple Man,’ ” he said. “I’ll never have that song back.”

On Wednesday morning (May 19), Friedopfer said he was blown away by Lee’s performance of the song on the show. “I knew he was going to do it, and I’m so happy for him,” he said. “When I first found out he was going to sing it, I told him, ‘You mean I’m finally going to have an iTunes version of that song?’ I’ve been wanting a studio version for so long!”

Before Tuesday night, Friedopfer said the only version of DeWyze singing “Simple Man” that existed was a YouTube video he uploaded of Lee singing it at Johnny’s. “He was born to sing that song.”

What did you think of Lee’s performance of “Simple Man”? Was it obvious he had sang the song before? Let us know in the comments!

Get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ “American Idol” page, where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.

Often guilty, never convicted. Serving 15 years to life at MTV News.