UB40 band member Astro, 64, dies following short illness
Astro, a founding member of the Birmingham based musical group UB40, has died following a short illness, it has been announced.
A statement on the band’s official Twitter said “We are absolutely devastated and completely heartbroken to have to tell you that our beloved friend Astro has passed away after a short illness.
“The world will never be the same without him,” the statement reads. “We ask you to please respect his family’s privacy at this incredibly difficult time.”
Astro, whose real name is Terence Wilson was a UB40 member from 1978 until 2013, when he left to join the breakaway group UB40 featuring Ali Campbell and Astro, which had been performing live this year and was set to go on tour in 2022.
The original UB40 rose to prominence in the early 1980s and is known for reggae hits like (I Can’t Help) Falling in Love With You and Red Red Wine.
The group have sold more than 70 million records and have had three UK number one hits, with 39 singles and 28 albums in the UK top 40.
On the single ‘Rat In Mi Kitchen’, Astro sang lead vocals and the song reached number 12 in 1987. Astro wrote the song in response to Ali Campbell’s problems with rodents.
UB40’s name was chosen in reference to a form issued to people claiming unemployment benefits at the time – “Unemployment Benefit, Form 40”. In the early days of their careers some of the group’s members survived on less than £8 a week in benefits.
Members of the reggae-pop group were friends who began rehearsing together in a local basement and were determined to make their left-wing political convictions a part of the band’s identity, having attended marches against the National Front and rallies organised by Rock Against Racism.
We have heard tonight, the sad news that ex-member of UB40, Terence Wilson, better know as Astro, has passed away after a short illness.
Our sincere condolences to his family
— UB40 (@UB40OFFICIAL) November 6, 2021
UB40’s working class roots
In an interview with The Guardian in June, Astro spoke about the band becoming the voice of working-class people’s frustration with political and global issues.
“I went through the same rigmarole as most black people in the late 70s,” he said, recalling the “sus” law that allowed black people to be stopped and even arrested by police if they were deemed to be acting suspiciously.
“It was a weekly occurrence,” he said. “We found it harder to write love songs than militant lyrics because it was a lot easier to write about stuff you had witnessed or read about. It seemed natural to us.”
In a 2016 interview with website UK Music Reviews, Astro explained that his nickname Astro was given to him when he was a child because he wore a pair of Dr Martens boots with the model name “Astronaut”.
“Fortunately, no one called me astronaut because it is rather a mouthful, so they shortened it to Astro and it has stuck ever since,” he added.
Astro’s death comes only months after the passing of fellow UB40 founding member Brian Travers in August.