Dive into the lyrics of UB40's songs and discover the meaning behind the words. Explore the themes and messages in the band's music.

The group from Birmingham have delighted audiences for over four decades and have a large catalogue of songs that are enjoyed by their fans worldwide.

Discover the stories and messages behind some of UB40's most memorable lyrics. Explore the meaning behind hits like 'Red Red Wine', 'Can't Help Falling in Love', and more, and gain a deeper appreciation for their timeless songs.

Understanding the Lyrics of UB40

UB40 was founded in Birmingham, England, in 1978. The name UB40 comes from attendance cards issued to people claiming unemployment benefits from the UK government - Unemployment Benefit, Form 40. The name was suggested due to the unemployed status of the members at the time.

The group consisted of eight members, with different ethnicities which gave them their diversity and authenticity to their music.

They started performing in small shows around Birmingham, but quickly found themselves gaining popularity in part thanks to their highly energetic performances that would run late into the night. Soon enough they were playing concerts at some of the UK and the world’s greatest venues.

Reggae music played a significant role in shaping the lyrics of UB40. The band's early work was heavily influenced by the political and social commentary found in the works of Bob Marley and other reggae artists.

UB40's incorporation of reggae's upbeat rhythms and conscious lyrics helped establish them as one of the leading reggae-pop crossover acts of the 1980s.

The key themes in UB40's lyrics often revolve around social and political issues, as well as personal experiences and relationships. Some of the recurring themes in their music include:

  • Political activism: Many of UB40's lyrics address political and social issues, such as poverty, inequality, and war.
  • Love and relationships: Songs like ‘Can't Help Falling in Love’ and ‘Here I Am (Come and Take Me)’ explore themes of love, desire, and relationships.
  • Working-class struggles: UB40's music often focuses on the experiences and struggles of the working class, as seen in songs like ‘Sing Our Own Song’ and ‘One in Ten.’
  • Cultural identity: The band frequently touches on themes of cultural identity, such as their celebration of Jamaica's heritage in ‘Kingston Town.’
  • Life experiences: UB40's lyrics often reflect on their personal experiences, such as growing up, relationships, and the ups and downs of life, as seen in songs like 'Red Red Wine' and 'I Can't Stand It.'

Decoding the Meaning of UB40's Top Hits

Obviously, we won’t go decoding every single one of UB40’s songs. But what we can do is take three of their best and most popular releases and decode them.

Red Red Wine

‘Red Red Wine’ is a song by Neil Diamond from 1967, which was covered by UB40 and became a hit for the band in 1983. The song's lyrics describe the narrator's attempts to forget a lost love through the use of alcohol, specifically red wine.

The chorus goes: "Red red wine, go to my head, make me forget that I still need her so." The song suggests that the drink provides temporary relief from heartache, but the memory of the lost love continues to linger.

In this sense, 'Red Red Wine' can be interpreted as a commentary on the fleeting nature of escapism through substance use. Overall, the song's lyrics reflect the themes of heartbreak and the search for solace.

I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You

‘I Can't Help Falling in Love with You’ is a song from Elvis Presley in 1961 with the melody based on a popular French love song named ‘Plaisir d’amour’ from 1784. UB40 then covered the song and made it popular in 1993.

The song's lyrics express the narrator's feelings of falling deeply and helplessly in love with someone. The chorus goes: "Wise men say, only fools rush in, but I can't help falling in love with you."

The song suggests that love is a powerful force that can't be controlled or predicted. Despite the cautionary advice of others, the narrator is unable to resist the pull of their emotions and finds themselves falling in love.

From this interpretation, it seems as though ‘I Can't Help Falling in Love with You’ is a celebration of the power of love and the inevitability of falling in love with someone. The song's timeless appeal is due in part to its simple, yet powerful, message about the nature of love.

Kingston Town

‘Kingston Town’ is a song by UB40 that was released in 1989. The song pays homage to the city of Kingston, Jamaica, and its cultural heritage.

The lyrics describe the narrator's memories of growing up in the city and their love and pride for the place. The chorus goes: "Oh Kingston Town, the place I love the best, Jamaica's pride and joy, is Kingston Town."

The song speaks to the cultural pride that many Jamaicans feel for their city and its rich history, which is closely tied to the island's musical heritage.

'Kingston Town' also references many of the city's iconic landmarks, such as the Palisadoes strip, and celebrates the city's musical traditions and nightlife.

It seems then that the song is a tribute to the city of Kingston and its rich cultural history, as well as a celebration of Jamaica and its people.

The Legacy of UB40's Lyrics

UB40's songs have left a lasting impact on pop culture and society. The band's unique blend of reggae, pop, and political activism helped establish them as one of the leading reggae-pop crossover groups of the 1980s and they have remained there all this time. The band's lyrics and the topics within them often resonated with audiences around the world.

The influence of their lyrics can be seen in the work of many musicians who came after them, particularly those who incorporate political and social commentary into their music. The band's unique style, which combined reggae's conscious lyrics with pop's catchy melodies, has been imitated by many artists in the decades since.

UB40's songs have remained relevant and continue to resonate with audiences to this day. Singles like the ones analysed earlier remain popular and have become timeless classics. The band's commitment to addressing important issues and their ability to craft catchy and memorable songs have made their music endure for over four decades.

UB40's lyrics have had a lasting impact on pop culture and society, and the band's music continues to be celebrated and appreciated by future generations of musicians and fans.

UB40 band members
Images: UB40 band members

The legacy of UB40 will continue to live on, despite there now technically being two UB40’s. Both contain original founding members of the group, so the lyrics written by either will forever have the band's stylings and symbolism.

How to see UB40 live

If you happen to be a devoted UB40 fan aiming to attend their concert with a group of friends and family, or even for a memorable corporate occasion, we’ve got you covered. There are several options for you to explore.

For those wanting to experience the magic of UB40 featuring Ali Campbell, you'll be thrilled to know that they will be joining forces with the legendary rock icons, The Who, during their exhilarating July 2023 tour.

Book The Who plus UB40 ft Ali Campbell VIP tickets

Alternatively, if you're looking forward to UB40's much-anticipated 2024 UK tour (this time without Ali Campbell), tickets are available now. Don’t miss out and secure your seat today

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