Musical Monday: UB40

I’ve seen today’s band in concert a number of times but only have their “Greatest Hits” album. Memorably, we saw them perform live in Loerrach where the centre of town was closed off to create the stadium: a warm summer evening, a glass of Sekt and reggae proved rather enticing…………….

UB40 are an English reggae and pop band, formed in December 1978 in Birmingham, England. The name “UB40” was selected in reference to an attendance card issued to people claiming unemployment benefits from the UK government.

Their first gig took place in February 1979 at The Hare & Hounds Pub in Kings Heath, Birmingham for a friend’s birthday party. This was commemorated in October 2011 by the unveiling of a plaque at the venue, indicating the band receiving the Performing Rights Society’s Music Heritage Award. UB40 caught their first break when Chrissie Hynde saw them at a pub and gave them an opportunity as a support act to her band, The Pretenders.

UB40 are one of the most commercially 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, South America, etc. They have performed twice at the Night of the Proms, in 2000 and in 2006. They have been nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album four times, and in 1984 were nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Group.

All three of their UK number one hits and four of their five US top ten hits were cover versions and they have collaborated with a number of fellow artists most notably Chrissie Hynde, Maxi Priest and  Robert Palmer. 

Red Red Wine is a song originally written, performed and recorded by American singer Neil Diamond in 1967 that appears on his second studio album, Just for You. The lyrics are written from the perspective of a person who finds that drinking red wine is the only way to forget his woes.

UB40 recorded a version of the song for their album of cover versions Labour of Love. Allegedly the band were only familiar with Tony Tribe’s version and did not realise that the writer and original singer was Neil Diamond. UB40’s version features a lighter, reggae-style flavor compared to that of Diamond’s somber, acoustic ballad. Neil Diamond has stated that UB40’s version is among his favourite covers of his songs.He frequently performs the song live using the UB40 reggae arrangement rather than that of the original version.


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