The band UB40 made a name for themselves in the 1980s and their fame has carried on through the years. They won many awards and topped many charts together. The English reggae and pop band, formed in December 1978, has had more than 50 singles in the UK Singles Chart.
The name UB40 refers to an unemployment benefit form from that time. They were once the voice of the disaffected youth in the UK. They started out as friends and for some of them, brothers - but over the years there have been a number of issues that they faced.
Initially, the group members were brothers Ali and Robin Campbell, drummer Jimmy Brown, bassist Earl Falconer, percussionists Yomi Babayemi and Norman Hassan, saxophonist Brian Travers and keyboardist Jimmy Lynn.
“We were eight people who had been unemployed since school, trying to wade through Thatcher’s quagmire of sh** then sing about it. We were politicised, we were disenfranchised, and we had a lot to say,” Ali told the Daily Mirror.
Ali Campbell quits
The group was stable for most of its career but Ali decided to leave the band in 2008. It was said that he wanted to work on solo projects, according to Smooth Radio.
The remaining members in 2008 - Mickey Virtue, Robin Campbell, Astro, Brian Travers, Earl Falconer, Jimmy Brown and Norman Hassan - released a statement saying: "Ali made a very simple decision; he chose to pursue and put his solo career over and above continuing to work with UB40 after February 2008. It’s as simple as that."
It wasn’t long after that Mickey Virtue left as well and Ali was replaced by his brother Duncan as their lead singer. In 2013, Astro left the group too. Then, Ali, Virtue, and Astro started playing together. So, there are now two versions of the band performing and touring.
Ali Campbell comments on brother - Duncan’s singing
In 2013, Ali said that he could not deal with his brother “murdering” his songs. Ali now performs under the banner of UB40 feat. Ali Campbell. Unfortunately, the band faced a setback because of tragedy. Astro passed away last year in November after a short illness.
Ali further added that there is no chance of his reconciling with his old band. “That’s all dead and gone. We haven’t spoken since I left. It all became very unpleasant with them trying to stop me using the name of my own band. I think what my brother Robin has now is basically a tribute band. But we’re the real deal.
“The proof is how many people you’re playing to. Robin’s band are playing cruise ships while I’m doing the Isle of Wight Festival and selling out arenas,” he told the Mirror.
The two groups had legal issues as Ali Campbell was using the band’s name to perform. In 2014, the Mirror reported guitarist and vocalist Robin Campbell as saying: “Ali is selling tickets as UB40 when he isn’t. He’s taken our name because he can’t sell tickets on his own.
“They are perfectly entitled to play any UB40 tracks they like. What they are not entitled to do is to pretend they are UB40. Fans are being hoodwinked.”
Duncan’s health deteriorates
In 2021, Duncan said he was “reluctantly” retiring since having a stroke in 2020. "Unfortunately, due to continued ill health, I have reluctantly decided to retire from the band so as to focus on my recovery," Campbell said in a post on a UB40 fan site.
Ali was asked on Good Morning Britain if he spoke to his brother after the stroke and he said that they hadn’t. He said that they no longer talk to each other.
“I only get to hear what’s happened like everyone else, so basically I don’t know what’s going down,” he added. He was asked if he would want to get the original group back together and he said: “I was betrayed by them. I stand vindicated. I’m just happy to carry on promoting reggae and diversion of UB40.”
It is not known if the brothers reconciled since then.