Music

Five of the Best: UB40

UB40 is a hugely successful British reggae band that ruled the airwaves in the 80s and 90s. Formed in Birmingham, the group’s unique sound saw it release many smash hits that remain crowd favourites today. The group is well-known for its interesting interpretations of classic pop songs and also for various collaborations with some of pop’s biggest names.

UB40 is headlining New Zealand’s Raggamuffin Festival in February 2016. The festival celebrates reggae and roots music and will move to the Trusts Arena for the 2016 event. Click here to purchase tickets.

UB40 has released more than 50 singles in the UK singles chart and sold more than 70 million records. Narrowing down that many songs to just five has been no small feat – but we gave it a go anyway. Hopefully you enjoy our list and our trip through some of UB40’s biggest and best hits.

I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight

UB40 collaborated with English hit-maker, Robert Palmer, to cover I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight in 1990. I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight was originally written and recorded by Bob Dylan in 1967, but it was the UB40 and Robert Palmer version that saw it shoot up the charts. The track was particularly successful in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and parts of Europe. The single is uniquely UB40 with heavy reggae and percussion influences. The vocals are predominantly Robert Palmer, but the mix of his voice with the sounds of UB40 make it a really engaging and fun song.

ROBERT PALMER & UB40 I'LL BE YOUR BABY TONIGHT

Kingston Town

Kingston Town is one of UB40’s biggest and best-known hits and was the second single on the group’s Labour of Love II album, which was released in 1990. The song was a top-ten hit throughout the UK and Europe and reached number one on the singles charts in France and the Netherlands. The song is a slow, pop ballad and again has the unique and signature sound that is UB40. The song was a cover of Lord Creator’s 1970 version, but it was UB40’s release that saw it hit the popular charts.

UB40 - Kingston Town

I Got You Babe

It is rare for a song to be a huge hit when it is first released as well as following the release of a cover version 20 years later, but that was exactly what UB40 achieved when it recorded I Got You Babe in 1985. The duet was a smash hit for Cher and Sonny Bono in 1965 and the success of the single was repeated two decades later when UB40 teamed up with the lead singer of the Pretenders Chrissie Hynde. The 1985 version of the song was a number one hit in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, USA, and Ireland and was a top ten hit in many other markets. The song is heavily littered with horns and woodwind instruments and the contrast of Chrissie Hynde’s vocals is beautifully interspersed with the sound of UB40. We love this song and we are sure you’ll agree it is a very worthy track on this list.

UB40 - I Got You Babe ft. Chrissie Hynde

(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love With You

In 1993, UB40 adapted one of Elvis Presley’s greatest ballads into a reggae pop tune that was a smash hit all over the world. The song opens with a raspy voice and explodes into a mix of beats, percussion and horns to create a very unique sound that is a far cry from the original Elvis release in 1962. The song rocketed up the charts after its release and was a number one hit in more than 10 countries including Australia, New Zealand, the UK and USA. Taking on the popular and successful ballad of one of the world’s best-loved performers is not for the faint-hearted; but it is safe to say UB40’s version of (I Can’t Help) Falling in Love With You did the original justice and was an interesting and unique interpretation of a classic song. We love this song and we hope you do too – check it out below.

UB40 - (I Can't Help) Falling in Love With You (Live In The New South Africa)

Red Red Wine

Red Red Wine – UB40’s cover of the Neil Diamond song from 1967 – was the group’s first breakthrough hit. Released in 1983 on their Labour of Love album, Red Red Wine earned UB40 their first number one in the UK and was a top ten hit in many other countries. And here’s an interesting fact – the song peaked at number 34 on the US Billboard charts in 1983 but was a number one single when it was re-released in 1988. As with the song above, UB40 gave Red Red Wine a reggae edge and transformed it from a ballad to a killer pop song. Narrowing down the list was not easy, but we think Red Red Wine is the quintessential UB40 track and very deserving number one.

UB40 - Red Red Wine (Live In The New South Africa)

UB40 will perform at the Raggamuffin Festival at the Trusts Arena on February 20, 2016. Click here to purchase tickets.