UB40’s greatest 10 songs ever, ranked

Tran Hanh
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June 14, 2024

UB40 are one of the most popular reggae groups of all time, and scored many hits from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.

The diverse group – who have had members of English, Irish, Jamaican, Scottish and Yemeni parentage – have sold over 70 million records worldwide, and remain a popular force today

Named after a signing-on document issued to people claiming unemployment benefits from the UK government when they formed, the group went on to score massive hits around the world with their unique brand of reggae-pop.

In recent years, they have split off into two separate groups featuring the UB40 name in recent years – with Ali Campbell, the late Astro and Micky Virtue creating a new version – but we still love listening to all their classic hits.

Here, we’ve picked their absolute greatest:

  1. ‘Always There’

    UB40 – Always There (Official Music Video)This underrated track was the lead single from UB40’s 1997 album Guns in the Ghetto.Despite not reaching the top 40 at the time, we still reckon it was one of the band’s best tracks.
  2. ‘Please Don’t Make Me Cry’

    UB40 – Please Don’t Make Me CryThis track was the follow-up to their massive hit ‘Red Red Wine’ and also featured on their huge album Labour of Love.It gave them another top 10 hit, peaking at 10 in 1983. It was written by reggae artist Winston Groovy, aka one of the best names in showbusiness.
  3. ‘Many Rivers to Cross’

    UB40 – Many Rivers to CrossThis classic reggae song was originally by Jimmy Cliff in 1969, and has since been covered by many artists.Taken from their classic Labour of Love album, this version reached number 16 in the UK.
  4. ‘One in Ten’

    UB40 – One in TenThis song was released in 1981 from their second album Present Arms, reaching number 7 in the UK.The song title refers to the number 9.6, being the percentage of the local workforce claiming unemployment benefit in the West Midlands in the summer of 1981.
  5. ‘Baby Come Back’ (with Pato Banton)

    UB40 & Pato Banton – Baby Come BackOK, this isn’t officially a UB40 track, but it featured vocals from both Ali and Robin Campbell and sounds so much like a UB40 track that we’re including it.Reggae star Pato Banton scored a huge number one in 1994 with this cover of The Equals classic, and it was the Campbells’ presence that made it a summer anthem.
  6. ‘I Got You Babe’ (with Chrissie Hynde)

    UB40 Featuring Chrissie Hynde – I Got You BabeAlready an iconic duet by Sonny and Cher back in 1965, it got a new lease of life 20 years later when UB40 decided to cover it for their Baggariddim album.Collaborating with Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde, it was a huge hit and topped the UK chart in 1985.
  7. ‘Food for Thought’

    UB40 – Food For ThoughtUB40’s first single, this reggae track reached the UK top five in 1980, and it’s still regularly heard at Birmingham City FC matches today.Robin Campbell later said that the lyrics of the song relate to “the hypocrisy of Christmas, the fact that there are starving people in Africa and here we are all sat around eating our Christmas dinner and praising the Lord”.
  8. ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’

    UB40 – (I Can’t Help) Falling In Love With You (Remastered 2002)Elvis Presley first recorded this song in 1961, and it is based on ‘Plaisir d’amour’ by Jean-Paul-Égide Martini. UB40 arguably had the biggest version three decades later.They actually recorded it after being asked to make an Elvis tune of their choice for the film Honeymoon In Vegas.However, Bruno Hernandez’s version was selected instead. They weren’t sure about including a cover on their album, but Robin Campbell said: “I persuaded them that it would be pointless not to, as it was likely to be a smash hit.”
  9. ‘Red Red Wine’

    UB40 – Red Red Wine (Official Video)You might not have realised it, but Neil Diamond first recorded this song back in 1967. But it’s UB40’s cover that became the most well known in 1983.The song truly brought the band to the mainstream, and reached number one in the UK. It ended up topping the US charts too in 1988, after being performed at Nelson Mandela’s birthday tribute concert.
  10. ‘Kingston Town’

    UB40 – Kingston TownOriginally a 1970 song by Lord Creator, it became a classic when covered by UB40 in 1990 on their Labour of Love II album.The song gave another UB40 another top 5 hit, and was a particularly massive success in France.
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