A household name in modern pop-reggae circles, Ali Campbell (born Alistair Campbell on February 15, 1959, in Birmingham, England) was known — mostly — as the lead vocalist and guitar player for U.K. reggae act UB40. That band, which Campbell formed with the seven other members in the late ’70s, was a U.K. pop chart stalwart, eventually cracking the worldwide market with its stylistic covers of popular favorites such as “Red Red Wine” and “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You.”
Besides being the frontman, it was Campbell’s “good fortune” of getting in a “compensatory” bar fight that would lead to UB40 finally acquiring their (much-needed) instruments. Their first gig took place in early 1979, and — after being spotted by Chrissie Hynde — things began to snowball, at least in the United Kingdom. America was not broached until 1983 with the covers record Labour of Love, which included the aforementioned hit single “Red Red Wine,” and in 1993 with a second covers record Labour of Love II, which contained the famous Elvis Presley ballad. Campbell, as a solo artist, debuted with 1995’s Big Love. It hit the British Top Ten, thanks in part to “That Look in Your Eyes,” his hit duet with Pamela Starks.
Ali Campbell finally left UB40 for good in 2008. He had released another Top Ten solo album, Running Free, in 2007, and he left the band alleging bad business practices by band management. (Another founding member of the band, keyboard player Mickey Virtue, followed him out soon after.) Flying High followed in 2009, reflecting modern sensibilities with an appearance from grime artist Sway and a Britney Spears cover. Great British Songs arrived one year later, filled with Campbell’s cover versions of popular material from the 1960s and ’70s.
In 2014, Campbell announced the October release of his fifth solo album, Silhouette, featuring contributions from Mickey Virtue as well as a third original UB40 member, vocalist Astro, who had left the band in 2013. True to Campbell’s form, Silhouette was heavy on covers, both reggae and pop, including remakes of nuggets by the Beatles, Dennis Brown, Bob Dylan, the Chi-Lites, and the Pioneers.