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UB40 are a British reggae band formed in 1978 in Birmingham. The band has placed more than 50 singles in the UK Singles Chart, and has also achieved considerable international success. One of the world's best-selling music artists, UB40 have sold over 70 million records.
Their hit singles include their debut "Food for Thought" and two U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number ones with "Red Red Wine" and a cover of Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love". Both of these also topped the UK Singles Chart, as did the band's version of "I Got You Babe".
The band members began as friends who knew each other from various schools across Birmingham. The name "UB40" was selected in reference to the document issued to people claiming unemployment benefit from the UK government's Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) at the time of the band's formation. The designation UB40 stood for Unemployment Benefit, Form 40.
Brian Travers saved up and bought his first saxophone whilst working as an electrical apprentice for NG Bailey, leaving after a few years to become a founding member of UB40 alongside Jimmy Brown, Earl Falconer and Ali Campbell.
Before some of them could play their instruments, Ali Campbell and Brian Travers travelled around Birmingham promoting the band, putting up UB40 posters.
Their sound was created and honed through many long jam sessions at various locations in Birmingham. Their first gig took place on 9 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'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 ending, their claim for 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 29 August 1980, and entered the UK Albums Chart on 2 October 1980. It reached as high as No. 2 in the UK and spent 71 weeks in total on the chart. Signing Off is now a Platinum album.
After great success in the UK, UB40's popularity in the United States was established when 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 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); it stayed on the charts for over a hundred weeks. Three years later UB40 performed at the Birmingham Heart Beat Charity Concert 1986.
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 US.
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.
In 2002, the Virgin Records compilation album Young Gifted & Black featured sleeve notes by Robin Campbell from UB40.
On 21 August 2007, they performed with Cas Haley on the America's Got Talent season finale.
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 and business disputes. 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".
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 their arena tour in 2007, culminating in sell-out shows at the NEC Birmingham 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 released their next album, TwentyFourSeven, UB40's last with the original lineup, by way of a free insert in The Mail on Sunday's 4 May 2008 issue.The newspaper sold nearly three million copies. This led to a backlash when the full 17 track version was released 21 June 2008, and most of the big retailers refused to stock it. It failed to reach the Top 75 in the UK, in fact it entered the chart at number 84 which was a first, as all their official albums had previously gone Top 50 on the UK Albums Chart. Their next release, on EMI, was a collection called Love Songs, which was a compilation of hits mainly from the Labour of Love series and all featuring Ali Campbell on vocals - it reached number 3 in the UK.
The band played numerous outdoor shows in the UK in 2008. They also toured the US, which included their first show at the Hollywood Bowl. During the 2009 U.S. Tour UB40 offered fans live concert recordings on USB wristbands. The wristbands also included the Dub Sessions remix album and photos.
In 2009 the band released the first new album with their new lead singer Duncan Campbell – it was another in the Labour of Love cover series entitled Labour of Love 4. As the previous Labour of Love albums had been the most commercially successful albums for UB40.
On 12 June 2010, UB40 played a one-off concert to motor racing fans at the Le Mans 24 hour race. The playlist included Red Red Wine, Can't Help Falling in Love and Kingston Town. UB40 announced that after completing a coast to coast 2010 American tour they would be playing a nationwide UK tour of theatres in October/November 2010 performing their seminal album 'Signing Off', in full, along with a second set of popular UB40 songs. To coincide, on 1 Nov 2010 a remastered 2CD+DVD of 'Signing Off' is released as a '30th Anniversary Special Edition' The 30th Anniversary Special Edition Signing Off Album charted at number 194 in the UK charts.
In 2011 five founder members of the group and directors of their DEP International label, had bankruptcy proceedings started against them relating to debts of the record label. The five named were Robin Campbell, Brian Travers, Terence Wilson, Norman Hassan and James Brown. In October 2011 Travers, Wilson, Hassan and Brown were declared bankrupt.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.