Lead singer of UB40 leaves band after argument over solo career

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The Independent Culture

The lead singer of the British reggae group UB40 has quit the band amid a bitter row over "management difficulties" which have made his professional life "intolerable".

Ali Campbell wrote an open letter to fans on the group's website in which he said the decision to leave after nearly three decades had been "agonising".

The 48-year-old singer is leaving the Birmingham-based group after several years of acrimonious in-fighting over his alleged prioritising of a solo career.

In the letter he said he had been "deeply unhappy with administrative practices and with many decisions that have been made in recent years", adding: "I have an ongoing investigation into the handling of my business affairs in relation to UB40. Suffice to say, I felt I had no other option but to resign from my band."

The letter was an angry rebuke to a statement released by his former bandmates yesterday which announced Campbell's departure. It claimed his exit came "following Campbell's wish to focus more time on his solo career".

It went on: "Ali had embarked upon a solo album project [ called Running Free] last year and throughout the course of this album, his time and commitment to the band began to conflict with his recording work, promotional commitments and his own corporate shows". Campbell replied: "That is not the truth. I released my first solo album 13 years ago and when I released my current solo album I had every intention of continuing to balance my solo career with my commitment to the band. As one of the founder members of UB40, I have put the band first in my life for the past 28 years and am deeply saddened at the ending of that relationship.

"No words can express how upset I feel today that I have been forced to make this decision. The decision has not been taken lightly and has come as the result of a long, painful and agonising thought process".

Formed in 1978, the band was named after a form welfare claimants received from the then Department of Health and Social Security – the Unemployment Benefit Form 40. Their hit single, "One in 10", became an anthem of protest against mass unemployment during the Thatcher years. The band have enjoyed a hugely successful career with 51 hit singles and more than 70 million records sold worldwide. UB40's next album, 24/7, which was recorded with Campbell, will go ahead as planned for release in May, on the band's own Reflex Music record label.

Campbell's final performances with the band will be on tour in Australia, New Zealand and Uganda next month. No decision has been taken on whether to seek a replacement.