Jimmy Brown, UB40

The drummer of UB40, Jimmy Brown, talks 45 years of making music and what Brum means to him as the legendary band prepares for a big anniversary gig in Moseley in August


UB40 have had such a long, successful career that it means we have toured every continent and country, several times. We’ve toured Europe, east and west, which includes Russia – we were one of the first bands to tour there back in 1986, way before the raising of the Iron Curtain. It constantly amazes me that our music has travelled so far. We can go to somewhere like, say, Samoa, and 20,000 people turn up to see us. Just last year, we sold-out the famous Hollywood Bowl and we also played to 100,000 people on a Spanish beach. It’s amazing that we are still going strong after 45 years in the music business. 


As a drummer in the band it’s my job to keep the music moving in a straight line. Reggae music requires a lot of discipline. I have to refrain from too much embellishment because I don’t want too much clutter in the music. We are a big band, so I have to make sure I leave enough space for the other musicians to do their thing. 


The band has been so successful that many of our dreams and ambitious have already been fulfilled. Personally, musically I’m still ambitious to make the perfect record and the perfect live show. There are always things that I wish I could do again. Nothing is ever 100 per cent perfect. 


There aren’t many things that the band haven’t already achieved. We’ve never played mainland China, which I would love to do. For me personally it’s about family. I got together with my wife before the band started, so having four grown-up daughters, all with long-term partners, and grandchildren, all well-adjusted and happy in their lives, gives me an immense feeling of satisfaction.


If I met my younger self, I would say ‘carry on what you’re doing, it will work out fine, so don’t change’.


Being born and raised in inner-city B’ham was an enormous privilege. It was a melting pot of Asian, black, Arab, Irish and working-class English. You could sit on your doorstep and see the four corners of the world go by. The coming together of different cultures has inspired creativity and has also had a profound effect on my personal life. My wife’s father came to Britain from the Caribbean in the Windrush convoy and her mother is from Ireland. Which makes it a very Brummie family.


Family and friends are number one on the list. My youngest daughter and her husband live with my wife and myself and they’ve gifted me a beautiful grandson who’s not quite two-years-old yet and who I love spending time with. I do have a couple of ‘hobbies’ – I’m politically-minded and very left-wing and I’m also a bit of a film buff. I love cult movies and foreign films, particularly Japanese and South Korean cult movies. When the band are touring we get through a lot of movies on those long journeys in the tour bus.

UB40: The Homecoming, with Soul II Soul and guests, is on Sunday 27 August at Moseley Park. Details: ub40.global/thehomecoming