UB40 - Red Red Wine (1983)
- 80's score: 2.3
- Genre(s): Reggae
UB40 recorded their version of “Red Red Wine” for their album of cover versions, Labour of Love. ...
UB40 recorded their version of “Red Red Wine” for their album of cover versions, Labour of Love. According to UB40 member Astro, the group’s former vocalist and trumpet player, the band were only familiar with Tony Tribe’s version and did not realize that the writer and original singer was Neil Diamond. Astro told the Financial Times, “Even when we saw the writing credit which said ‘N Diamond,’ we thought it was a Jamaican artist called Negus Diamond.”
UB40’s version features a lighter, reggae-style flavor compared to that of Diamond’s somber, acoustic ballad. The UB40 version adds a toasted verse by Astro, opening: “Red Red Wine, you make me feel so fine/You keep me rocking all of the time,” which was edited from the single that reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart in August 1983 and #34 in the United States in March 1984.
In 1988, UB40 performed the song at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Concert. Soon after in June 1988, Guy Zapoleon, program director of KZZP in the Phoenix, Arizona market, believed that the song should be given a second chance and put the full version, including Astro’s “rap”, on the station’s playlist and it soon became the station’s most popular song. With UB40 ready to release Labour Of Love II, Virgin Records promotion man Charlie Minor asked UB40 to hold off on releasing the album so that the label could reissue and promote “Red Red Wine”. On the Billboard Hot 100 chart of October 15, 1988 the song hit #1 in the U.S. In September 2014, the Official Charts Company announced that sales in the UK had reached one million.
The song reached No. 1 on the South African Springbok charts in February 1984, remaining in that position for a total of 12 weeks. It also ended in the No. 1 position on that country’s year end charts.
Neil Diamond has stated that UB40’s “Red Red Wine” is among his favorite covers of his songs. He frequently performs the song live using the UB40 reggae arrangement rather than that of the original version.