UB40’s founding member dies at the age of 64.

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Terence Wilson, better known by his stage name Astro, was a British vocalist and founding member of UB40. He died at the age of 64.

Musician Astro of UB40 performs on stage during the iHeart80s Party 2017 at SAP Center on January 28, 2017 in San Jose, California.

Musician Astro of UB40 performs on stage during the iHeart80s Party 2017 at SAP Center on January 28, 2017 in San Jose, California. Photo: AFP / Getty

Astro, who performed in the reggae pop band for more than 30 years, died after a short illness, his current band confirmed.

“We are absolutely devastated and completely heartbroken,” said a statement on Ali Campbell and Astro’s Twitter account.

“The world will never be the same without him.”

UB40 were immensely popular in New Zealand, with the cover of a Neil Diamond song ‘Red Red Wine’ going to number one on the local charts.

Astro left UB40 in 2013 and went on to perform with breakaway group UB40 featuring Ali Campbell and Astro, which had played some concerts this year and was due to go on tour in 2022.

The original band broke through in the early 1980s with their unique take on British reggae and found success with hits like ‘Red Red Wine’ and ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love.’

They played in New Zealand many times, including on a 40th anniversary tour in 2019.

A statement from the current UB40 line up on Twitter said: “RIP Astro.

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“We have heard tonight, the sad news that ex-member of UB40, Terence Wilson, better known as Astro, has passed away after a short illness. Our sincere condolences to his family.”

In total, UB40 have recorded 39 UK top 40 singles and 28 top 40 albums, with Astro singing lead vocals on the hit ‘Rat In Mi Kitchen’ which reached number 12 in 1987.

The group also enjoyed success around the world, including in the US, where ‘Red Red Wine’ went to number one, as did another cover, ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,’ which spent seven weeks at number one in 1993.

The original line-up played together for three decades before Ali Campbell left in 2008.

Musicians Astro, Ali Campbell and Michael Virtue of UB40 arrive at the iHeart80s Party 2017 at SAP Center on January 28, 2017 in San Jose, California.

Musicians Astro, Ali Campbell and Michael Virtue of UB40 arrive at the iHeart80s Party 2017 at SAP Center on January 28, 2017 in San Jose, California. Photo: AFP / Getty

In an interview with The Guardian in May, Astro spoke about the band becoming the voice of working-class people’s dissatisfaction with political and global issues after they formed in 1978.

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He told the paper he experienced the “same rigmarole as most black people in the late 70s”, referring to a law which allowed people to be stopped and searched by police if they were deemed to be acting suspiciously – which Astro said was a “weekly occurrence”.

“We found it harder to write love songs than militant lyrics, because it was a lot easier to write about stuff you had witnessed or read about. It seemed natural to us,” he added.

After the news of Astro’s death broke, BBC Radio West Midlands played the UB40 track “Sing Our Own Song” as a tribute – with presenter Natalie Graham calling his death “very, very sad”.

“Astro really was a wonderful and an incredible human being and obviously the legacy of the music that we still get to enjoy from the likes of UB40 is something very, very special,” she said.

In August, fellow UB40 founding member and saxophonist Brian Travers died of cancer aged 62.

 

– BBC w/RNZ

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