Twenty-eight years and 23 albums after forming in working class Birmingham, England, UB40’s mission remains the same — spreading the good word of reggae.
“Absolutely, that is our mission,” says singergutiarist Ali Campbell, 47. “When we started, our mission was to popularize (the reggae offshoot) dub more than reggae because people knew what reggae was, but they didn’t know what dub was. That was 28 years ago.
“Now, it’s like we’re very proud to be part of the reggae movement, which is one of unity and love and peace.”
That doesn’t mean UB40, which took its name from the British government’s unemployment form, won’t make a little noise. From 1980’s “Signing Off” to the new “Who You Fighting For,” the group has maintained a strong political component in its music. As Campbell notes, “We always write about what’s going on around us,” so war and other global issues are higher priority than the “little pop ditties” that occasional pop up on UB40’s albums.
“The fact that there’s a war raging that we feel very strongly about, and are completely opposed to, that kind of gives you something to write about,” says Campbell, who’s working on a solo album, tentatively titled “Flying High,” as well as tracking the progress of a musical based on UB40’s songs that’s opened in England.
But, he adds, “UB40 has never offered any solutions to anything. What we try to do is make people think. We try to provoke a bit of political thought. Our lyrics don’t change from the first album to the last one; we’re still the same cynical, bitter and twisted individuals we were when we started, when we were unemployed and spent a lot of time sitting around, smoking dope and discussing politics.
“We’ve still got our roots, man.”
Reggae Sunsplash, featuring UB40, Toots & the Maytals, Third World, Maxi Priest and Rik Rok, plays at 6 p.m. Tuesday (August 22nd) at DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road north of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $35 pavilion, $15 lawn. Call (
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