Paul Young was born in Luton, Bedfordshire, England. He has an older brother, Mark Young, and a younger sister, Joanne Young. As a youth, after school, he played football for the Vauxhall Motors factory and in his spare time played in several bands as a bass guitarist. The first group for which he became lead singer was Kat Kool & The Kool Kats.
In the late 1970s he joined Streetband, who had one Top 20 hit in the UK, with the humorous, novelty track "Toast". The single peaked at No. 18 in November 1978. In December 1979 the Streetband broke up and Young formed the Q-Tips, who established their name by playing live but had no hits in the UK, although their single "Letter Song" did enjoy minor success in mainland Europe.
The Q-Tips disbanded in 1982, and Young was signed by CBS Records as a solo performer. By way of tying up some loose contractual ends, Paul Young embarked on the 'Last Chance To See The Best Live Band In The World Tour' throughout March and April of '82. Though initially billed as Q-Tips, only keyboardist Ian Kewley accompanied Young, and without the surging brass section of Q-Tips, the band had an entirely different dynamic. The Rewind label issued a live set of Q-Tips during this period, 'Live At Last', and a decade later the band's much vaunted BBC sessions were officially released. The famed Q-Tips brass section toured with Adam Ant during his 'Friend Or Foe' tour, but aside from a brief 1993 reunion with Paul Young, the Q-Tips brand (of the band variety) came to an end. Paul Young's new backing band 'The Royal Family' included keyboardist Kewley, fretless bass player extraordinaire Pino Palladino, guitarist Steve Bolton, drummer Mike Pinder, and backing singers Maz Roberts and Kim Leslie AKA 'The Fabulous Wealthy Tarts'. Helped by the driving sound of Pino Palladino's fretless bass in his backing band, his first two singles, "Iron Out the Rough Spots" and a cover of "Love of the Common People", had no success, but the third, a cover of the Marvin Gaye classic "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)", reached No. 1 in the UK singles chart for three weeks in the summer of 1983, the first of 14 British Top 40 singles. (The song was included on the soundtrack of the 1992 British comedy film Peter's Friends.)
Similar success followed all over Europe. In the UK, follow-up single "Come Back and Stay" reached No. 4, and a re-release of "Love of the Common People" made it to No. 2 and even received radio airplay in the United States (thanks to its soundtrack inclusion in John Hughes' film "Sixteen Candles"), while his debut album No Parlez was certified platinum in various countries.
Young's style at the time was a warm, approachable white soul, though he sometimes received playful criticism for his fashion decisions. However, his choice of an Antony Price leather suit for the cover of No Parlez proved to be impractical for the concert stage, where his energetic shows dictated more robust clothing.
The year 1984 was a difficult one for Young, as his first heavy promotional and live concert tour of America strained his vocal cords severely, to the extent that he was completely unable to sing for most of the year. He recovered sufficiently to provide a famous lead performance on the opening and closing lines to the Band Aid single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" He returned to the U.K. Top Ten with a version of Ann Peebles' "I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down". The latter appeared on his second album, ' The Secret of Association, released in 1985, which secured his future success in the United States, Japan and Australia. The album went to No. 1 in the UK. However, he continued to have occasional voice and throat difficulties. That year, Young scored the biggest worldwide hit of his career with "Everytime You Go Away", a version of a Daryl Hall song from a 1980 Hall & Oates album. "Every Time You Go Away" topped the pop charts in both the U.K. and U.S., and was his biggest success in the U.S. He would perform the song during the London segment of the Live Aid concert.
In 1990, he released a cover of The Chi-Lites' "Oh Girl", which peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.