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UB40 are a British reggae band formed in 1978 in Birmingham. Featuring the same line-up of 8 musicians from 1978-2008, the band placed more than 50 singles on the UK charts, and achieved considerable international success as well. Their #1 hits (which are all covers) include "Red Red Wine" (#1 US/UK/Canada/NZ/Holland), "Can't Help Falling in Love" (#1 US/UK/Australia/Sweden/Holland), and "I Got You Babe" (#1 UK/Holland).


The band members began as friends who knew each other from various colleges and schools across Birmingham. The name "UB40" was selected in reference to a paper form issued by the UK government's Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) at the time of the band's formation for claiming unemployment benefit. The designation UB40 stood for Unemployment Benefit, Form 40.

Before any of them could play their instruments, Ali Campbell and Brian Travers travelled around Birmingham promoting the band, putting up UB40 posters. The band purchased its first instruments from Woodroffe's Musical Instruments with £4,000 in compensation money that Campbell, who would become the lead singer, received after a bar fight during his 17th birthday celebration.

Their first gig took place on February 9, 1979 at The Hare & Hounds Pub in Kings Heath, Birmingham for a friend's birthday party.

UB40 caught their first break when Chrissie Hynde noticed them at a pub and gave them an opportunity as a support act to her band, The Pretenders. UB40's first single, "King"/"Food for Thought" was released on Graduate Records, a local independent label run by David Virr. It reached No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart.

Their first album was titled Signing Off, as the band were signing off from or closing their claim on the unemployment benefit. It was recorded in a bedsit in Birmingham and was produced by Bob Lamb. Norman Hassan said of the recording: "if you stripped my track down, you could hear the birds in the background." This is because his tracks were recorded outside in the garden. Signing Off was released on September 6, 1980, and entered the UK Albums Chart on October 2, 1980. It reached as high as No. 2 in the UK and spent 72 weeks in total on the chart. Signing Off is now a Platinum album.

Despite great success in the UK, UB40's popularity in the United States was only established after they released Labour of Love, an album of cover songs, in 1983. The album reached No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 8 on the Billboard Top 200 in the US. The album featured the song, "Red Red Wine", a cover version of a Neil Diamond song (in an arrangement similar to that of Tony Tribe's version).

Their most successful worldwide single release is the cover of the Elvis Presley ballad "(I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You" which was the main title to the 1993 Sharon Stone movie Sliver and was a number one hit across Europe and in the U.S..

In June 2007, Sparta Florida Music Group started legal action against heiress Paris Hilton and Warner Chappell Music for plagiarism due to similarities between the song "Stars Are Blind" and the song "Kingston Town", originally by Lord Creator. It was frequently misreported that UB40 was the instigator of the action,, and that it centered on their 1990 cover of the song. However, according to a statement UB40's site, they are not involved, and "Any speculated legal action taking place against Ms. Hilton would be entirely at the instigation of the original songwriter’s music publisher...who ultimately own the copyright to the song.

UB40 toured South Africa in July 2007 and headlined the Live Earth concert at the Cradle of Humankind, near Johannesburg. They performed one of the longest sets for the event at approximately 54 minutes.

On 21 August 2007, they performed with Cas Haley on the America's Got Talent Season Finale. In 2007 UB40 were signed by Ingenious Media PLC, a boutique London investment bank that finances comeback albums.

On 24 January 2008 it was announced that Ali Campbell would be leaving the group after 30 years. It was originally stated that this was in order for Campbell to concentrate on solo projects, but Campbell later said he was leaving due to "management difficulties". The remaining seven members released a statement saying: “Ali made a very simple decision, he chose to pursue and put his solo career over and above continuing to work with UB40 after February 2008, it’s as simple as that". The news that a second original member was leaving the band as a result of "management trouble" came on 19 March 2008. Keyboard player Michael Virtue followed Campbell, and also launched an investigation, with Campbell's legal company, into the financial dealings of the group.

It was reported by some Birmingham newspapers on 13 March 2008, that Maxi Priest would be the new lead singer of UB40 and had recorded a cover of Bob Marley’s "I Shot the Sheriff" with the band, based on information from an unnamed "source close to the band." Priest had joined UB40 on tour in 2007, culminating in sell out shows at the NEC in December. Another local newspaper reporting that Maxi Priest would be the new UB40 frontman, also included a statement from band spokesman Gerard Franklyn which contradicted this claim: "Maxi is collaborating with the band to record material but there is no decision been made to replace Ali Campbell with one definitive singer. The reports are half correct he will be appearing with them for this new recording. In April 2008, the BBC reported that Campbell was to be replaced in the band by his brother Duncan, with reggae singer Maxi Priest also bolstering the line-up on tour.

The band's new album, Twentyfourseven, UB40's last with the original lineup, was a free insert in The Mail on Sunday's 4 May, 2008 issue.. The full 17 track version was released on 16 June 2008, but failed to go top 75 in the UK. This is a first for UB40, as all the official albums have previously gone Top 50 on the UK Albums Chart.

The band completed a UK Tour in July 2008, and are already recording Labour of Love IV . In August 2008 they toured America, but Astro was not granted a visa.


UB40 were influenced by the many Blues Parties they attended as teenagers in the multiracial Balsall Heath area of Birmingham. Their love of ska and reggae inspired such original tracks as "King", "Madam Medusa", "Food for Thought", "Signing Off" and "One in Ten".

Their early musical style was unique, with a heavy influence of analogue synthesisers, psychedelic rock guitar, saxophone and dub producer techniques which were later perfected by the late Pablo Falconer.

Ali and Robin Campbell have a musical heritage, being sons of Ian Campbell, a folk musician.

Many of UB40's recordings were inspired by 1960s ska and early lovers rock.


UB40 is one of the most successful reggae acts of all time in terms of record sales (over 70 million), chart positions and touring schedule. During their three-decade long career, they have been performing sell-out shows worldwide and headlining the Reggae Sunsplash music festival in Jamaica, as well as spreading reggae to Russia and South America, among others. They have performed twice at the Night of the Proms, in 2000 and in 2006. In 2006 UB40 were also nominated for a Grammy Award (Reggae category) for their album Who You Fighting For.

Much of UB40's commercial appeal came from their releases of classic cover songs. In fact, all three of their UK number one hits and four of their five U.S. top ten hits were cover versions.

UB40's early music has often tackled social issues such as racism and unemployment.

Other artists that UB40 have collaborated with include: Pato Banton, Madness, Bitty McLean, Chrissie Hynde, Maxi Priest, Robert Palmer, Hunterz, Japanese artist Mikidozan, French artist Nuttea, Lady Saw, Afrika Bambaataa, 808 State.

Band Members

The ethnic makeup of the band is diverse, with musicians of English, Scottish, Irish, Yemeni and Jamaican parentage. From the band's 1978 inception through early 2008, UB40's line-up was constant:

Guest members include(d):

  • Patrick Tenyue (trumpet) (1983–94)
  • Henry Tenyue (trombone) (1983–94)
  • Martin Meredith (saxophone) (1997— )
  • Laurence Parry (trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone) (1995— )
  • Maxi Priest - vocals (2008- )

In 2008 Ali Campbell left the band, followed shortly thereafter by Mickey Virtue.



Year Album UK U.S.
1980 Signing Off 2 -
1981 Present Arms 2 -
1981 Present Arms in Dub 38 -
1982 UB44 4 -
1982 The Singles Album 17 -
1983 UB40 Live 44 -
1983 More UB40 Music - -
1983 Labour of Love 1 1 8
1984 Geffery Morgan 3 60
1985 Baggariddim 14 -
1985 Little Baggariddim - 40
1985 The UB40 File - -
1986 Rat in the Kitchen 4 53
1987 UB40 CCCP: Live in Moscow - 121
1987 The Best of UB40 - Volume One 3 -
1988 UB40 12 44
1989 Labour of Love II 3 30
1993 Promises and Lies 1 6
1994 Labour of Love, Volumes I and II (re-issue) 5 -
1995 The Best of UB40 - Volume Two 12 -
1997 Guns in the Ghetto 7 176
1998 UB40 Present the Dancehall Album 58 -
1998 Labour of Love III 2 8 -
2000 The Very Best of UB40 7 -
2001 Cover Up 29 -
2002 UB40 Present the Fathers of Reggae 104 -
2003 Labour of Love, Volumes I, II and III - Platinum Collection (re-issue) 7 -
2003 Homegrown 49 -
2005 Who You Fighting For? 3 20 -
2005 The Best Of UB40, Volumes 1 & 2 47 -
2007 Live at Montreux 2002 - -
2007 Dub Sessions (sold at UB40 concerts and for download only) 4 - -
2008 TwentyFourSeven 5 81 -

1 Labour Of Love reached number fifteen in the U.S. in 1988 with the re-popularization of "Red Red Wine".
2 Labour Of Love III was released in the U.S. in 1999.
3 "Who You Fighting For" was released in the U.S. in 2006 and nominated for a Grammy Award (Reggae Category).
4 "Dub Sessions" charted at No.1 in the UK Reggae Chart.
5 "Twentyfourseven" charted at No.1 in the UK Reggae Chart.


Year Song UK singles U.S. Hot 100
1980 "King"/"Food for Thought" 4 -
1980 "My Way of Thinking" / "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" 6 -
1980 "The Earth Dies Screaming" / "Dream a Lie" 10 -
1981 "Don't Let It Pass You By" / "Don't Slow Down" 16 -
1981 "One in Ten" 7 -
1982 "I Won't Close My Eyes" 32 -
1982 "Love Is All Is All Right" 29 -
1982 "So Here I Am" 25 -
1983 "I've Got Mine" 45 -
1983 "Red Red Wine" 1 34
1983 "Please Don't Make Me Cry" 10 -
1983 "Many Rivers to Cross" 16 -
1984 "Cherry Oh Baby" 12 -
1984 "If It Happens Again" 9 -
1984 "Riddle Me" 59 -
1985 "I'm Not Fooled" / "The Pillow" 79 -
1985 "I Got You Babe" (with Chrissie Hynde) 1 28
1985 "Don't Break My Heart" 3 -
1986 "Sing Our Own Song" 5 -
1986 "All I Want to Do" 41 -
1987 "Rat in my Kitchen" 12 -
1987 "Watchdogs" 39 -
1987 "Maybe Tomorrow" 14 -
1988 "Reckless" (with Afrika Bambaataa) 17 -
1988 "Where Did I Go Wrong" 26 -
1988 "Red Red Wine" (U.S. re-issue) - 1
1988 "Breakfast in Bed" (with Chrissie Hynde) 6 -
1988 "Come out to Play" 77 -
1989 "I Would Do for You" 45 -
1989 "Homely Girl" 6 -
1990 "Kingston Town" 4 -
1990 "Wear You to the Ball" 35 -
1990 "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" (with Robert Palmer) 6 -
1990 "Impossible Love" 47 -
1990 "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)" 46 7
1990 "The Way You Do the Things You Do" 49 6
1991 "Groovin'" - 90
1992 "One in Ten" (remix by 808 State) 17 -
1993 "Can't Help Falling in Love" 1 1
1993 "Higher Ground" 8 45
1993 "Bring Me Your Cup" 24 -
1994 "C'est La Vie" 37 -
1994 "Reggae Music" 28 -
1995 "Until My Dying Day" 15 -
1997 "Tell Me Is It True" 14 -
1997 "Always There" 53 -
1998 "Come Back Darling" 10 -
1998 "Holly Holy" 31 -
1999 "The Train Is Coming" 30 -
2000 "Light My Fire" 63 -
2001 "Since I Met You Lady" (with Lady Saw) / "Sparkle of My Eyes" 40 -
2002 "Cover Up" 54 -
2003 "Swing Low" 15 -
2005 "Kiss and Say Goodbye" 19 -
2005 "Reasons" (with Hunterz and The Dhol Blasters) 75 -
2006 "Who You Fighting For" (download only) - -
2008 "Lost & Found" / "Dance Until The Morning Light" (with Maxi Priest) - -

See also


External links

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