UB40 have seen themselves re-entering the news after a very, very long time following news breaking that a younger and more alcohol-soaked version of SCOTUS nominee/alleged sexual predator Brett Kavanaugh instigated a bar fight with a fellow patron on the basis that he resembled the band’s heyday singer, Ali Campbell. And although this match-up may be worth talking about just in its pure oddness, what’s even more worth talking about is how a squaring-off between the two may actually make a lot more sense than you think.
Believe it or not, as unlikely as it may seem given their current permanent residencies on soft rock stations and casino stages alike, UB40 began in their home country of England as an expression of the social frustrations of impoverished anti-Thatcherites, from their name (short for ‘Unemployement Benefit, Form 40’) to their debut album title (Signing Off, as in signing off said unemployment forms, of which the album cover also resembled) projecting the perspective of the many-cultured, few-dollared left-leaning underclass.
Earlier this year, the band’s founder/former singer and lookalike of the punched, Ali Campbell, spoke to the BBC about how the initial nucleus of the band was indebted equal parts to immigration and post-WW2 poverty: “I lived in Balsall Heath in South Birmingham, which was a predominantly immigrant area. The first generation of Windrush kids were all my friends, and I grew up with Indian and Jamaican friends. So the music of the streets was Indian music, which I love—Mohammad Rafi and Asha Bhosle and all that—and reggae.”
The origins of Kavanaugh, on the other hand, are the complete opposite to that of Campbell’s, unsurprisingly comprised of elite Catholic all-boys high schools, chauvinist fraternities, and Ivy League law schools; in short, Kavanugh is as much an avatar for the buttoned-up traditions of Capitol Hill conservatism of the last century as Campbell is for the UK working-class left. This wide disparity of values and upbringings between Kavanaugh and Campbell not only adds a bit more sense to the lookalike-punching incident, but also comfort in the fact that if it actually was Mr. UB40 himself there who got socked in the face, he would’ve hit right back – and probably quite hard.