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UB40 is a British reggae band formed in Birmingham in the summer of 1978. The band is one of the most widely known reggae acts and have achieved major success by selling over 70 million records worldwide.
The band is comprised of Robin and Ali Campbell on guitar and vocals, Earl Falconer on bass, James Brown on drums, Norman Hassan on percussion, Brian Travers on sax, Michael Virtue on keyboards with MC Terence Wilson. Ali was later replaced by another brother Duncan Campbell later on in the band's career.
The band members began as friends who knew each other from various schools across Birmingham, but their universal love for reggae music united them. They quickly decided that they wanted to be a band and they knew that recording reggae would be popular as it was different from the 2 Tone and New Wave bands permeating England at the time. They decided on the name UB40 as it was the short name for the document issued to persons claiming unemployment benefits from the government. The band began promoting themselves before some of the members could even play an instrument, so strong was their belief in their imminent success.
After long practice sessions in Birmingham, the band scored their first gig at The Hare & Hounds Pub in Kings' Heath Birmingham on February 9th 1979 for a friend's birthday party. This gave them initial exposure and stage practice, but their first break came when at a performance at another local pub, Chrissie Hynde offered them the chance to back her own band.
After working with Hynde for a short spell, the band recorded their first single "King/ Food For Thought" with Graduate Records. The song reached No. 4 on the UK singles chart and they began to receive more attention. Their first album was fittingly titled "Signing Off" as they were signing off or ending their claim for unemployment. it was recorded in Birmingham and was produced by Bob Lamb. It was released on August 29th 1980 and peaked at No. 2 on the UK albums chart, spending a total of 71 weeks on the chart. the album later went platinum.
Their popularity quickly spread across the ocean as the release of their second album "Labour of Love" (1983) which was an album of cover songs was a huge success in the United States. The album reached No.1 on the UK albums chart and No. 8 on the Billboard 200 in the US. The album was largely popular as it included a cover of Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine" which stayed on the charts for over 100 weeks. This particular song is one of the two songs the band is most well known for. The other is another cover, this time of Elvis Presley's ballad "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You". It was No, 1 on both US and UK charts upon its release.
The band has since then toured South Africa, Russia, the UK and South America. They have performed in prestigious events such as Night of the Proms, Reggae Sunsplash and The Grammy Awards. They have collaborated with a number of artistes, most famously Maxi Priest, Robert Palmer, Hunterz, 808 State, Lady Saw, Nuttea, Bitty McLean, Afrika Bambaataa and Pato Banton.
In 2008 Ali Campbell announced that he was leaving the band and he was replaced by his brother Duncan.
The band in their illustrious career have produced over 20 albums and they continue to tour and perform across the globe, spreading their soothing reggae sound everywhere they go.