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UB40 are a British reggae fusion (reggae/pop) band formed in 1978 in Birmingham, UK. The band has placed more than 50 singles on the UK charts, and has also achieved considerable international success. Their #1 hits (which are all covers) include "Red Red Wine" (#1 US/UK/Canada/NZ/Netherlands), "Can't Help Falling in Love" (#1 US/UK/Australia/Sweden/Netherlands), and "I Got You Babe" (#1 UK/Netherlands).
The band members began as friends who knew each other from various colleges and schools across Birmingham. The name "UB40" was selected in reference to the document issued to people claiming unemployment benefit from the UK government's Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) at the time of the band's formation. The designation UB40 stood for Unemployment Benefit, Form 40. 
Before any of them could play their instruments, Ali Campbell and Brian Travers travelled around Birmingham promoting the band, putting up UB40 posters. The band purchased its first instruments from Woodroffe's Musical Instruments with £4,000 in compensation money that Campbell, who would become the lead singer, received after a bar fight during his 17th birthday celebration.
Their first gig took place on 9 February 1979 at The Hare & Hounds Pub in Kings Heath, Birmingham for a friend's birthday party.
UB40 caught their first break when Chrissie Hynde noticed them at a pub and gave them an opportunity as a support act to her band, The Pretenders. UB40's first single, "King"/"Food for Thought" was released on Graduate Records, a local independent label run by David Virr. It reached No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart.
Their first album was titled Signing Off, as the band were signing off from or closing their claim on the unemployment benefit. It was recorded in a bedsit in Birmingham and was produced by Bob Lamb. Norman Hassan said of the recording: "if you stripped my track down, you could hear the birds in the background." This is because his tracks were recorded outside in the garden. Signing Off was released on 6 September 1980, and entered the UK Albums Chart on 2 October 1980. It reached as high as No. 2 in the UK and spent 72 weeks in total on the chart. Signing Off is now a Platinum album.
Despite great success in the UK, UB40's popularity in the United States was only established after they released Labour of Love, an album of cover songs, in 1983. The album reached No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 8 on the Billboard Top 200 in the US. The album featured the song, "Red Red Wine", a cover version of a Neil Diamond song (in an arrangement similar to that of Tony Tribe's version).3 years later UB40 performed at the Birmingham Heart Beat Charity Concert 1986 which was very special.
Their most successful worldwide single release is the cover of the Elvis Presley ballad "(I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You" which was the main title to the 1993 Sharon Stone movie Sliver and was a number one hit across Europe and in the U.S..
In June 2007, Sparta Florida Music Group started legal action against heiress Paris Hilton and Warner Chappell Music for plagiarism due to similarities between the song "Stars Are Blind" and the song "Kingston Town", originally by Lord Creator. It was frequently misreported that UB40 was the instigator of the action,, and that it centered on their 1990 cover of the song. However, according to a statement UB40's site, they are not involved, and "Any speculated legal action taking place against Ms. Hilton would be entirely at the instigation of the original songwriter’s music publisher...who ultimately own the copyright to the song."
UB40 toured South Africa in July 2007 and headlined the Live Earth concert at the Cradle of Humankind, near Johannesburg. They performed one of the longest sets for the event at approximately 54 minutes.
On 21 August 2007, they performed with Cas Haley on the America's Got Talent Season Finale. In 2007 UB40 were signed by Ingenious Media PLC, a boutique London investment bank that finances comeback albums.
On 24 January 2008 it was announced that Ali Campbell would be leaving the group after 30 years. It was originally stated that this was in order for Campbell to concentrate on solo projects, but Campbell later said he was leaving due to "management difficulties". The remaining seven members 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". The news that a second original member was leaving the band as a result of "management trouble" came on 19 March 2008. Keyboard player Michael Virtue followed Campbell, and also launched an investigation, with Campbell's legal company, into the financial dealings of the group.
It was reported by some Birmingham newspapers on 13 March 2008, that Maxi Priest would be the new lead singer of UB40 and had recorded a cover of Bob Marley’s "I Shot the Sheriff" with the band, based on information from an unnamed "source close to the band." Priest had joined UB40 on tour in 2007, culminating in sell-out shows at the NEC in December. Another local newspaper reporting that Maxi Priest would be the new UB40 frontman, also included a statement from band spokesman Gerard Franklyn which contradicted this claim: "Maxi is collaborating with the band to record material but there is no decision been made to replace Ali Campbell with one definitive singer. The reports are half correct he will be appearing with them for this new recording." In April 2008, the BBC reported that Campbell was to be replaced in the band by his brother Duncan, with reggae singer Maxi Priest also bolstering the line-up on tour.
The band's new album, Twentyfourseven, UB40's last with the original lineup, was a free insert in The Mail on Sunday's 4 May 2008 issue.. The full 17 track version was released on 21 June 2008, but failed to go top 75 in the UK. This is a first for UB40, as all the official albums have previously gone Top 50 on the UK Albums Chart.
The band completed a UK tour in July 2008 and toured the United States in August 2008, but without Astro who was not granted a visa. The band plan to release Labour of Love IV in 2009 with a tour of the UK and Ireland scheduled for late 2009.