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Red Red Wine, a song that transcends its origins and carries the weight of two musical titans. While the reggae rendition by UB40 in 1983 undeniably brought it to the forefront of popular consciousness, the story begins much earlier, in the introspective world of American singer-songwriter, Neil Diamond.

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Originally released in 1967 on Diamond’s second studio album, Just For You, Red Red Wine paints a melancholic picture. It’s a ballad, a heartfelt lament sung by a man for whom solace resides at the bottom of a glass. The acoustic guitar lays bare the vulnerability in Diamond’s voice as he croons about the woes that only red wine seems to soothe. This version, steeped in American folk tradition, resonates with a quiet desperation.

Fast forward to the early 1980s, and across the Atlantic, a different interpretation was brewing. UB40, a band hailing from Birmingham, England, were taking the world by storm with their infectious reggae beats. Known for their smooth blend of reggae and pop, they set their sights on Red Red Wine for their album Labour of Love, a collection of cover songs.

Here’s where the magic truly happens. UB40’s reggae makeover transformed the song entirely. The mournful ballad gave way to a swaying, almost celebratory groove. The acoustic guitar was replaced by the gentle skank of the rhythm guitar, characteristic of reggae.

The addition of brass and keyboards added a layer of warmth, while the unmistakable vocals of UB40 frontman Ali Campbell brought a new kind of heartache – a longing, a yearning, all delivered with a smooth, soulful lilt. An extra verse, sung by Astro of UB40, further emphasized the power of the beverage: “Red Red Wine, you make me feel so fine / You keep me rocking all the time.”

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Red Red Wine by UB40 became a global phenomenon. It topped the charts in the UK and the US, a testament to the band’s ability to breathe new life into a classic song. The reggae version, both an homage and a departure from the original, became the definitive version for many listeners. Red Red Wine serves as a beautiful example of how a song can evolve, taking on new colors and meanings as it travels through time and across cultures.

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Lyrics

Red red wine

Goes to my head

Makes me forget that I…

Still need her so

Red red wine

It’s up to you

All I can do, I’ve done

Memories won’t go

Memories won’t go

I’d have sworn that with time

Thoughts of you would leave my head

I was wrong, now I find

Just one thing makes me forget

Red red wine

Stay close to me

Don’t let me be alone

It’s tearing apart

My blue heart

I’d have sworn that with time

Thoughts of you would leave my head

I was wrong, now I find

Just one thing makes me forget

Red red wine

Stay close to me

Don’t let me be alone

It’s tearing apart

My blue, blue heart

Red red wine you make me feel so fine

You keep me rocking all of the time

Red red wine, you make me feel so grand

I feel a million dollars when you’re just in my hand

Red red wine, you make me feel so sad

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Any time I see you go, it makes me feel bad

Red red wine, you make me feel so fine

Monkey back and ease up on the sweet deadline

Red red wine, you give me whole heap of zing

Whole heap of zing, you make me do my own thing

Red red wine, you give enough of love

You’re kind of loving like a blessing from above

Red red wine, I loved you right from the start

Right from the start, with all of my heart

Red red wine in an eighties style

Red red wine in a modern beat style

Yeah

Give me a little time, let me clear out my mind

Give me a little time, let me clear out my mind

Give me red wine, the kind make me feel fine

You make me feel fine all of the time

Red red wine, you make me feel so fine

Monkey pack him Rizla pon the sweet deep line

The line broke, the monkey get chocked

Bunjah, ganjapani, little rubber boat

Red red wine, I’m gonna hold on to you

Hold on to you cause I know you love truth

Red red wine, I’m gonna love you ’till I die

Love you ’till I die and that’s no lie

Red red wine, can’t get you off my mind

Wherever you may be, I’ll surely find

I’ll surely find

Make no fuss, just stick with us

Give me a little time, let me clear out my mind

Give me a little time, let me clear out my mind

Give me red wine, the kind make me feel fine

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You make me feel fine all of the time

Red red wine, you make me feel so fine

Monkey back and ease up on the sweet deadline

The line broke, the monkey get chocked

Bunjah, ganjapani, little rubber boat

Red red wine, you give me not awful love

You’re kind of loving like blessing from above

Red red wine, I loved you right from the start

Right from the start, with all of my heart

Red red wine, you give me whole heap of zing

Whole heap of zing, you make me do my own thing

Red red wine in an eighties style

Red red wine in a modern beat style

Yeah

Red red wine, you make me feel so fine

You keep me rocking all of the time

Red red wine, you make me feel so grand

I feel a million dollars when you just in my hand

Red red wine, you make me feel so sad

Any time I see you go

It make me feel bad