10 Best Songs by UB40

What follows are the best songs by UB40 best. Many are covers that gained massive popularity as they reached new audiences in the 1980s.

UB40 is a British reggae band popular in the 1980s. In the late 1970s in Birmingham, Robin Campbell, his younger brother Ali, Earl Falconer, Brian Travers, and James Brown began making music together. 

The acronym UB40 stands for Unemployment Benefit Form 40, a government document the band members frequently used when they first got together to make music, as all were unemployed.

As the punk scene swept through the United Kingdom, UB40 stood out in its musical style and joined the anti-establishment movements of the music scene at the time. 

Staunchly anti-fascist and anti-racist, UB40 released their first record in 1980 and responded to the austere right-wing popularism of the day. UB40 drew inspiration from Caribbean reggae, as well as from musical influences in Australia and Zimbabwe.

Falling in Love With You

UB40 – “Falling in Love with You” is a 1993 song that covers the song of the same title by Elvis Presley. UB40 undoubtedly put their reggae spin on it, and the music video features Alec Baldwin’s brother Billy.

“Falling in Love with You” reached number one after its release. It was the primary song in the film trailer for Fools Rush In, which may have helped it climb the charts. (The movie title borrows a line from Presley’s original lyrics!)

Red Red Wine

UB40 – “Red Red Wine” is a cover song originally written by Neil Diamond. Released in 1984 in the United Kingdom, this was one of UB40’s earlier hits. It was number one on the United Kingdom charts the year it was released and eventually hit number one in the United States.

The lyrics of “Red Red Wine” are accessible and familiar; the person singing needs red wine to soothe their heartbreak. While Neil Diamond’s original features violins and slow, country-inspired guitar twangs, UB40’s hit gives it a slightly more upbeat backing with their reggae influences.

The Way You Do the Things You Do

UB40 – “The Way You Do the Things You Do” is another of the band’s popular covers. First recorded by the Temptations in 1964, UB40 released this track on their album Black Rain in 1989.

However, the UB40’s cover evokes Eric Donaldson’s 1976 cover of the same song on his album Keep on Riding. Eric Donaldson was a Jamaican reggae performer. 

UB40’s cover highlights their multicultural approach and style, and their popularity in Britain at the time could have reflected the youth’s commitment to a diverse society, in contrast with the UK government’s rising trend away from integration.

Kingston Town

UB40 – “Kingston Town” is another cover the group helped to make more massively appealing. Written by the reggae artist Lord Creator, UB40’s version never made it to number one on the United Kingdom’s charts. It was popular in France and in the Netherlands, where the song reached number one on local charts.

The song is a mellow, brooding ballad for the town of Kingston, which is the capital of Jamaica. Lord Creator was from Trinidad and Tobago, and none of the original eight members of UB40 grew up in Jamaica. The crooning yearning for another place, however, transcends borders.

I Got You, Babe

UB40 – “I Got You Babe” is a cover of a song that the duo Sonny and Cher released in 1965 on their first album. In 1985, UB40 released its single featuring the singer-songwriter Chrissie Hynde. 

At the time, Chrissie Hynde was also performing with the band The Pretenders. The collaboration appeared on their compilation album from 1987.

The UB40 version reached number one on the United Kingdom charts and 28 in the United States. UB40 stayed true to the original version by pairing Chrissie Hynde with Ali Campbell as the lead vocalist on the song, capturing the male/female duo energy for which Sonny and Cher were known.

Here I Am (Come and Take Me)

“Here I Am (Come and Take Me)” is a song by Al Green. Green wrote and released the song in 1973. UB40’s version hit the charts in 1990, over a decade after the band formed and began recording albums.

While the song did not gain as much popularity in the United Kingdom, it reached number three on the Australian charts, and in New Zealand, it got up to six. In the United States, the song ranked number seven in July of 1991.

Sing Our Own Song

“Sing Our Own Song” is an original song from UB40 off of their 1986 album Rat in the Kitchen. The lyrics of this song explicitly call for an end to the South African Apartheid and reflect the UB40 political stance.

For example, the song uses the IsiZulu words “Amandla Awethu,” which became call-and-response protest chants in the Anti-Apartheid movement. 

Wanting to uphold apartheid and the status quo, the South African government banned the song. “Sing Our Own Song” is one of many songs penned in response to apartheid.

Bring Me Your Cup

“Bring Me Your Cup” is another original song by UB40. The band featured this song on their 1993 album Promises and Lies. It was their tenth album (on which their cover of “Falling In Love With You” also appeared).

Promises and Lies is the band’s most popular album, selling over nine million copies worldwide.

Homely Girl

This well-received cover got released on Labour of Love II. The original 1974 song was by a band called The Chi-Lites. The Chi-Lites was a Chicago-based band recording and making music in the heyday of Motown (despite not being based in Michigan).

“Homely Girl,” tells the sad tale of a woman whose reputation as a bookworm with plain looks keeps her lonely and sad. The singer pines for her, despite what other people find unattractive about her. It is unclear whether he ever makes his love for her known.

Moonlight Lover

“Moonlight Lover” is a recent release from UB40. In 2019, they put together a 40th-anniversary album and collaborated with Jamie Travers to record “Moonlight Lover.” The song also features the artist Gilly G.

The anniversary album For the Many upholds UB40s political legacy with a title that takes inspiration directly from the United Kingdom’s Labour party

Though this song has earned mixed reviews, it is a bright, cheerful reggae tune that closes out the prolific band’s newest album.

In Closing

UB40 gained popularity because of its fresh reggae sounds infused with popular hits that British youth recognized. 

Today, many think of reggae as music synonymous with sandy beaches and vacation, but the genre has deep-rooted political influences at its heart. 

As a racially diverse and inclusive band, UB40 stood squarely in favor of racial and economic freedom. Even critics cannot deny the impact UB40 had in bringing reggae into wider popularity and recognition. 

Photo Credit:

DescriptionUB40 feat. Ali Campbell, Astro & Mickey Virtue @ Rock the Ring 2018
Date23 June 2018
PhotographerSven Mandel

Born and raised in Austin, David is a dedicated writer and avid fragrance lover. When he's not trying out perfumes, he enjoys traveling and exploring new restaurants.

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