The story began on Sunday when Chad Ludington, a Yale classmate, accused the always charming Brett Kavanaugh of downplaying the extent of his drinking in a statement to the failing New York Times.
Ludington wrote about an incident that happened following a UB40 concert in September 1985. After the show, Kavanaugh, Ludington and Yale pals went to a nearby bar where they mistook a patron for Ali Campbell, lead singer for the reggae-pop-ska band UB40.
According to Ludington, the man grew uncomfortable being stared at and told them to stop. Then, Kavanaugh “threw his drink at the guy,” leading to a good old fashioned bar fight. Police in New Haven questioned him about it, but Kavanaugh was not charged. Too bad; this all could have turned out so differently.
Social media and late-night hosts have been having great fun with riffs about UB40, acting as if the band is some novelty act now living in obscurity. But, I am feeling a bit defensive because the band was major for me as a young queer in the 1980s.
UB40 is one of the most commercially successful reggae-pop acts of all time. They have had 50 charted singles and have sold over 80 million records. They have been nominated for four Grammy Awards.
Four of their five Top Ten Hits are cover versions, but they recorded plenty of original tunes too. UB40 collaborators have included: Madness, Chrissie Hynde, Robert Palmer, and Afrika Bambaataa. With 214 weeks spent on the singles charts during the 1980s, UB40 and the band Madness hold the record for most weeks spent by a group on the pop charts in the 1980s.
The name “UB40” is a reference to a form issued to those claiming unemployment benefits from the UK’s Department of Employment: Unemployment Benefit, Form 40.
The ethnic make-up of the band’s original line-up was diverse, with musicians of English, Welsh, Irish, Jamaican, Scottish and Yemeni heritage.
Their hit singles include their debut Food For Thought, Red Red Wine, Can’t Help Falling in Love, and the band’s version of Sonny and Cher‘s I Got You Babe, all went to Number One.
UB40 are still around, albeit without Campbell who left the band in 2008. They start a European leg of their new tour in November.