Artist Spotlight: UB40

We take a look at the career of UB40, one of the UK's defining reggae groups.

Skiddle Staff

Last updated: 22nd Apr 2022

In 1978, UB40 first started recording together in a basement in Birmingham, with members Robin Campbell, Ali Campbell, Brian Travers and James Brown all knowing each other through going to Moseley School of Art, they were joined by Norman Hassan. This was the genesis of one of the UK’s best reggae bands.



Later adding members Michael Virtue and Astro, the band quickly aligned themselves with left-wing politics and formed a strong identity. After all, they came from a background where if you left school early then you’d either end up working in a factory or have to live on an £8 unemployment benefit. This helped to shape their perception which later bled into their music.


They spent the beginning of the 80’s touring with The Pretenders before going on to release their debut album titled ‘Signing Off’ which was the perfect introduction to their melodic style that followed reggae and dub stylings. It went to #2 in the UK charts and stayed in them for 72 weeks.



It wasn’t long before a second album arrived in the shape of ‘Present Arms’ in the Summer of 1981. One of their key singles ‘One in Ten’ spoke of the record levels of unemployment that the UK was seeing at the time and lodged itself into the long history of British protest music. 


It was a decade that saw UB40 become Britain’s reggae ambassadors and by this time they were even scoring international hits, reaching places far away from their humble beginnings. In their career, they have sold over 100 million records, a staggering figure and have spent a combined 11 years in the UK album charts.


Ali Campbell quit the band in 2008, with Astro and Michael Virtue doing the same sometime later, the band having an internal feud which has now led to Duncan Campbell fronting the band with the rights to the full UB40 catalogue. Technically there are two versions of UB40 existing today, one fronted by Duncan and the other fronted by Ali.



They have been nominated for 4 Grammy awards and their reputation can truly be held in the light of being a household name. The Duncan Campbell-led UB40 will be headlining Leighton Live this Summer and they’re the perfect band to see if you’d like to go and have a dance. They'll no doubt be playing tracks such as Red Red Wine, Here I Am (Come and Take Me) and Kingston Town.


With so many huge singles that have entered the UK charts, their songs are known widely throughout the country and their anthems are perfect to catch at a festival. There’s never a boring moment to be had when seeing UB40 take to the stage at a festival.



Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.











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