UB40

  • British reggae band formed in 1978 in Birmingham England. The main line up was Ali Campbell (guitars, vocals), Robin Campbell (guitars, vocals), Astro (born Terence Wilson – percussion, trumpet, vocals), Norman Hassan (percussion, trombone, vocals), Brian Travers (saxophone), Mickey Virtue (keyboards), Earl Falconer (bass guitar) and Jimmy Brown (drums).
  • The band members were friends from schools in Birmingham. In 1978, Ali Campbell, Brown and Falconer began to rehearse reggae songs that were popular at the time, along with some original songs that they had composed. Soon, others joined in the jam sessions, and by the end of the year, there were 8 members. They named themselves UB40, after the form in the UK to receive unemployment benefits – UB40 stands for Unemployment Benefit, Form 40.
  • Their first public gig was at a pub for a friend’s birthday party, in February 1979. They got their break into the music industry when Chrissie Hynde from the band The Pretenders heard them perform later that year, and asked them to perform as a support act for her band. They were signed by a local independent record label, and in 1980 they released their first album, Signing Off. It reached #2 on the album chart in the UK, and their debut single, Food For Thought, peaked at #4 in the UK.
  • They quickly became popular in the UK with their reggae music. They released 8 more albums in the 80s, with 6 of them charting in the top 10 in the UK. Their breakout in the U.S. happened with their fourth album, Labour of Love in 1983. The entire album was covers of other songs, many of which were from other reggae acts. One song that was not originally a reggae song was a cover of Neil Diamond’s Red Red Wine. It was their first song to chart in the U.S., and it reached #1 on the Hot 100, and stayed on the chart for over 100 weeks. The album was certified platinum in the U.S.
  • Labour of Love II, released in 1989, was their second album to go platinum in the U.S. It included the top 10 hits Here I Am (Come and Take Me), a cover of the Al Green song from 1973, and The Way You Do The Things You Do, a cover of the hit originally by The Temptations.
  • UB40 became loved for their reggae covers of popular songs. Their cover of Sonny and Cher’s I Got You Babe in 1985 hit #1 in the UK and other countries, and was their second song to chart in the U.S., peaking at #28. Their best selling album was in 1993 – Promises and Lies. It contained their version of Elvis Presley’s I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You. The song stayed at #1 on the Hot 100 chart for 7 weeks. It was the main title track to the Sharon Stone film Sliver in 1993. They also covered Stevie Wonder’s song Superstition for the Eddie Murphy film Vampire in Brooklyn in 1995.
  • The band has continued to release records and to tour. They’ve released 7 albums since 2000, and their most recent effort in 2018 – titled A Real Labour of Love – was their highest charting album in the UK since 1993, peaking at #2. They’ve released a total of 18 studio albums, 4 live albums, many compilations, and 62 singles in their careers.
  • It’s fun to listen to their reggae versions of classic songs. Interesting that a group of mostly white British lads can pull it off. Here’s the video to Red Red Wine – see for yourself if they pull it off.

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