Mixing pop and reggae as the band’s signature sound, England’s UB40 brought forth its unique style of music to the audience in 1978 when founding members Ali Campbell, Jimmy Brown, and Earl Falconer began experimenting with charted reggae songs with their blend of pop-style music. Shortly afterward, Yomi Babayemi, Norman Hassan, Brian Travers, and Jimmy Lynn. joined the band. Ali Campbell’s brother, Robin, was reluctant at first to form a band with the rest of the group, but once he did, the eight-man band then proceeded to work on a name everybody could agree on. It was agreed to go with UB40 as a play on the circumstance all members were unemployed when they first grouped together as a band. Each of them were collecting unemployment benefits while still in Birmingham at the time. This marks the UB part of the name. Form 40, which is issued from the UK government’s department of employment, was the result of the second half of the name. Once they officially became UB40, it was now a matter of earning some bookings and a record deal so they could all get off unemployment.
The band wasn’t on unemployment for long as the group released its first studio album on August 29, 1980. Signing Off went platinum on the British Phonographic Industry. From there, nineteen additional studio albums were released, as well as seventeen compilation albums, seven live albums, and sixty-two singles.
Top 10 UB40 Songs
#10 – Kiss and Say Goodbye
2005’s “Kiss and Say Goodbye” was UB40’s final single that would appear on the UK Singles chart, which peaked at number nineteen and at number sixteen on New Zealand’s Recorded Music chart. It was a heartfelt, soulful reggae performance by the group that served to be every bit as tearful as the 1976 original performed by The Manhattans.
#9 – Here I Am (Come and Take Me)
Al Green’s 1973 certified gold original, “Here I Am (Come and Take Me),” was a top ten hit for him when it was released. UB40’s reggae twist to the song, also became a top ten hit as it peaked at number seven on the US Billboard Hot 100. It also charted within the top ten among the nations of Australia, Netherlands, and New Zealand. On the UK Singles Chart, Here I Am was at number forty-six. The trumpeting with a reggae-pop twist came from UB40’s album, Labour of Love II, and was every bit as soulful performance in 1990 as it was in 1973.
#8 – The Way You Do the Things You Do
The Temptations made “The Way You Do the Things You Do” a smash hit in 1964 as one of the most popular R&B songs of all time from the group. UB40 throws in their trademark reggae-pop to record and release the song in 1990 as one of the tracks in their album, Labour of Love II. For UB40, it worked well enough to have the playful classic reach number six on the US Billboard Hot 100. It was also a globally charting success, peaking as high as number eleven in France, number fifteen in the Netherlands, and number twenty-six in Ireland. On the UK Singles Chart, the song appeared at number forty-nine.
#7 – Breakfast in Bed (featuring Chrissie Hynde)
“Breakfast in Bed” was originally recorded and produced by Muscle Shoals in 1969, then first popularized by Baby Washington that same year. The 1988 cover by Chrissie Hynde and UB40 took the soulful R&B ballad and threw in a reggae twist, mixed with a soft pop-style influence. For them, the song charted as high as number four in the Netherlands, number five in New Zealand, number six in the UK, and number nine in Ireland. Breakfast in Bed was the leading track from UB40’s self-titled album, which was the tenth studio release.
#6 – Higher Ground
From UB40’s tenth studio album, Labour and Lies, 1993’s soft, synthesizer-fused “Higher Ground” was a global charting success with its mix of reggae and pop influence. On the UK Singles Chart, the song peaked at number eight, as well as doing the same on the music charts belonging to the Netherlands and New Zealand. On the US Billboard Mainstream Top 40, Higher Ground climbed up to number sixteen, and on the US Billboard Hot 100, at number forty-five.
#5 – Kingston Town
“Kingston Town” was a 1970 performance by Lord Creator, then in 1989 by UB40. For the group, the empty auditorium sound, influenced by the sounds of reggae mixed with pop sparked the song into an easy-listening hit that saw chart-topping success on the French and Dutch official billboard charts. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked at number four, as well as on Belgium’s Ultratop 50. On the Eurochart Hot 100, Kingston Town reached number six. It was also a top ten hit among the nations of Australia, Germany, Ireland, and Switzerland.
#4 – I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight (featuring Robert Palmer)
In 1967, “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” was performed by Bob Dylan, then covered in 1990 by Robert Palmer and UB40. The pair up of Palmer and the reggae-pop group influenced the song’s playout to reach a new audience that saw it reach number one in New Zealand and chart within the top ten among the nations of Australia, Austria, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and the UK. On The US Billboard Alternative Airplay, the song peaked at number eleven.
#3 – I Got You Babe (featuring Chrissie Hynde)
“I Got You Babe” was a classic hit originally performed by Sonny and Cher in 1965 and was a chart-topping, platinum-certified hit for the duo as a ballad the two proclaimed their love for each other. In 1985, UB40 and Chrissie Hynde team up to do the same, which is featured on the band’s sixth studio album, Baggariddim. For them, it was also a chart-topping hit, at least in Ireland, Netherland, New Zealand, and the UK. On US soil, the US Billboard Hot 100 charted the cover song as high as number twenty-eight. It also became certified gold in the UK and the US.
#2 – Red Red Wine
Originally, “Red Red Wine” was performed by Neil Diamond in 1967 and it was a woeful ballad of a man sharing his vulnerability whenever he’s consumed red wine. For him, it was a moderate success as it appeared at number sixty-two on the US Billboard Hot 100. UB40’s cover version in 1983 from the band’s fourth studio album, Labour of Love, turned the song into chart-topping success. On the exact same chart, Red Red Wine peaked at number one. It also did the same the UK Singles Chart, and the billboard charts belonging to the nations of Canada, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, and South Africa. Where the song did not chart number one, it was number two in Australia and Denmark, number five in Austria, number seven in Poland, number eight in Switzerland, number ten in Norway, and number fourteen in Sweden. The song also earned platinum certification with the UK’s BPI, and gold certification in Canada, New Zealand, and the US.
#1 – (I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You
In 1993, UB40 performed a reggae version of Elvis Presley’s ballad, “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You,” as one of the band’s tracks from the album Promises and Lies. Already a chart-topping hit for Elvis Presley in his day so was the case for UB40. Actually, UB40’s cover reached more music charts and had more number-one spots than the original. The full orchestral of UB40’s performance was more complex than the simplicity of Presley’s, which was in the band’s favor as both the fans and the critics couldn’t help falling in love with the song themselves.
In addition to reaching number one virtually every US Billboard music chart, there is, aside from number eleven on its Adult Contemporary and Modern Top 40 charts. Globally, the song reached number one throughout the Oceania nations and most of the European nations. Among the few where the song did not reach number one, it was either number two with Ireland, Germany, and Switzerland, number three in Spain, number four in Norway, number five in France, and number nine in Italy. The song also received platinum certification in Australia, Germany, New Zealand, the UK, and the US.