Song: Red Red Wine
Original artist: Neil Diamond
When it comes to giving a song a different treatment, adding a reggae beat is a twist
several artists have tried down the years.
In this instance I look at the styling given by Birmingham-based UK group UB40 to a
1967 Neil Diamond classic – Red Red Wine, a song familiar to those who think that the
answer to their problems may lie in consuming large quantities of alcohol.
The Diamond original version he delivered to an audience at Glastonbury in 2008
Diamond says the reggae delivery of UB40 is one of the favourite covers of one
of his songs. He often performs it himself in reggae style (see below). I guess he might
have made a few dollars from UB40’s success too.
The UB40 version was released in 1983 and topped the UK charts, but only enjoyed
limited success in the US. However, when re-released five years later it went to No 1 on
the Billboard Hot 100.
UB40 have made a speciality of performing cover versions. The album that Red Red
Wine is taken off – Labour of Love – was the first of four all-cover version albums with
that title. In addition to Red Red Wine, the first Labour of Love also featured hits like
Cherry Oh Baby and Many Rivers to Cross.
For non-Brits perhaps an explanation of their name is in order. A UB40 is an attendance
card issued to people claiming unemployment benefits from the UK Government – also
known as “being on the dole”. UB40 is short for Unemployment Benefit, Form 40. A
friend of the group suggested that UB40 would be appropriate given that all eight band
members were unemployed when they formed the group.
The original line-up was very diverse. Band members’ parents came from England,
Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Jamaica and Yemen. They did rather well after forming with
50 chart successes in the UK and have sold more than 70 million records worldwide.