Robin Campbell of UB40 Says His Father Folk Singer Ian Campbell Helped Him On Early Songs - Noise11.com
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Robin Campbell of UB40 Says His Father Folk Singer Ian Campbell Helped Him On Early Songs

by Paul Cashmere on July 1, 2021

in News

UB40’s Robin Campbell can thank his father, folk singer Ian Campbell, for guiding his early songwriting.

Ian Campbell had a skiffle band in the late 1950s. He was also a television presenter in the UK. Ian wrote the words to UB40’s ‘Madam Medusa’ and also guided Robin in the creation of UB40’s first hit ‘Food For Thought’.

Watch the Noise11 interview with Robin Campbell

Robin says UB40’s cover of Randy Newman’s ‘I Think Its Going To rain Today’ was for his dad. “That was the influence of my father (Ian Campbell) who was a recording artist,” Robin Campbell tells Noise11.com. “He was a folk musician (in the 50s and 60s) and he was a Randy Newman fan. He loved that tune. He recorded that tune in the 60s around about the time Randy Newman wrote it, I guess”.

UB40’s version was released in 1980. “We knew that song as kids and we’d always loved it. We just thought it’d be hilarious to do a reggae version of it for our dad, really you know, to amuse him”.

Three of the Campbell brothers have been UB40 members. Robin and his now estranged brother Ali founded the band. Brother Duncan joined when Ali left (and left this week due to health issues). “I was surrounded by music from childhood,” Robin says. All of our lives we were surrounded by music and musicians. I remember sitting at the feet of the musicians in my father’s group rehearsing in our front room. We would just sit and listen to them play. My father also had a very successful folk club. He had the biggest folk club in Europe at some point in the 60s when I was a little kid. We were surrounded by music and I think probably he would have thought that we were going to become folk musicians when we grew up”.

Instead of folk, Robin chose Reggae as his genre of choice. “We were also surrounded by Reggae,” he says. That was the music we fell in love with. That was the dance music. It was diametrically opposed, the opposite of what our father was into. I think he was disappointed that we wanted to be in a Reggae band at first until we were successful and then he was very proud of us”.

Ian knew how to craft a song. “He helped me with songwriting at first,” Robin says. “When we were first writing lyrics to ‘Food For Thought’, it was from an idea of his and he very much helped me with those lyrics. He wrote the lyrics for ‘Madam Medusa’ which was on the 12-inch with the first album. He wrote the lyrics for that and gave them to me because he wanted us to have good lyrics. He was a great songwriter and he’d been writing songs for a long time. In fact Paul Simon recorded one of his songs later on in his career. My father was a was a recognized singer songwriter. He helped us in in that way but we were never going to be musically collaborating just because it was not the music he was playing and very strange to us. It was absolutely natural but to him it was very strange.”

UB40 have just released their 21st album ‘Bigga Baggariddum’.

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