By Joanie Cox-Henry
UB40 shot to fame in 1988 when their cover of Neil Diamond’s tune “Red Red Wine” hit No. 1 on the American Billboard charts. Since that iconic single, UB40 went on to sell more than 70 million records globally. Although the original group disbanded in 2008, Ali Campbell, Terence “Astro” Wilson and Mickey Virtue are now back together and on the road again.
“We put out a country album in 2013 and I was wasn’t happy with it. This was the last straw,” Wilson said. “When we started UB40, the whole purpose was to uprise reggae music. This album really stepped away from what we were about.”
The trio then released “Silhouette (The Legendary Voice Of UB40 – Reunited With Astro & Mickey)” in 2014. The cover of the 50’s doowop song originally recorded by The Rays and later Herman’s Hermits, went back to the playful reggae spirit of the band’s roots. “When we choose a cover song to record, they’re typically songs we love and have known forever,” Wilson said. “‘Silhouettes’ was recorded in London and it’s a song we believed the general public would fall in love with as much as we did.”
Although UB40 actually formed in 1979 in Birmingham, England, Wilson said their group and sound really came together organically. “We’re all self-taught,” said Wilson, who also cites the Jackson family, Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley as musical influences. “Gregory Isaacs really inspired us. Everybody established their points and there’s no great mystery to it.”
While UB40 kicked off their tour last November, Wilson is excited to tour North America with the band for the first time in eight years. “I have family in Fort Lauderdale so it’s always a good time when we get to play there,” Wilson said of UB40’s Oct. 24 gig at the Au-Rene Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
The group also enjoys performing at various wineries and of course, sipping “Red Red Wine.”
“We performed at winery tours in New Zealand,” Wilson said. “And we’ve become quite versed with wines. We enjoy all sorts of wine, especially pinot noir.”
Although Wilson admits the music industry has “changed beyond all recognition” since he and UB40 cut their first record, the heart of UB40’s music and message remains the same. “Stay true to yourself and do what you do,” Wilson said. “Reggae is more influential now than ever. The baseline of reggae unifies everyone around the globe. Whether you go to Hawaii, Germany or Sicily, reggae is internationally loved. Being with UB40 again has been fantastic. The chemistry is still there and it’s like we’ve never been apart. There’s no ego and no band politics. We’re surrounded by great musicians and we’re doing what we love to do.”
UB40 performs 8 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Au-Rene Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 S.W. Fifth Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $30-$60. Call 954-462-0222 or visit Browardcenter.org.