The Red Red Wine Song and Its Beginnings
The Red Red Wine song was a tune originally written and recorded by Neil Diamond back in the 60s. Like so many other songs penned or recorded by Neil Diamond, “Red Red Wine” was soon covered by other artists. The Red Red Wine song was several other artists, but years later in the 80s it was most famously covered by the British reggae group UB40.
“Red Red Wine,” a song about turning to red wine as a way of forgetting about a lost love, reached #63 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1968 (the Neil Diamond version). Jimmy James and the Vagabonds released a cover version of the song in the |UK later in the year, and their version went to #36. The Jamaican rocksteady singer Tony Tribe recorded the reggae-influenced version of the song that would pave the way for future covers in 1969. His version went to #46 in the UK. That same year, the Red Red Wine song was covered by pop/swamp rock artist Charles Mann. The following year in 1970, Vic Dana covered the song with minor success on the charts. Roy Drusky, a country singer, also covered the song in 1972 and it made the Top 20.
It was in 1983, however, that the Red Red Wine song truly exploded. UK reggae band UB40 covered Tony Tribe’s version of the song (making it a cover of a cover), adding a bit more of an upbeat rhthym to it (plus a “toasted,” or rapping/talking verse by UB40 member Astro) on their Labour of Love album. UB40 claimed that they were only familiar with Tony Tribe’s version, which makes sense if you consider that they were probably all huge reggae fans. Regardless, their version reached #1 in the UK in ’83 and #34 in the US the following year.
During this time, there was no escaping the Red Red Wine song. It was all over pop radio and this was the heyday of MTV, where the video recived constant rotation – back when MTV played music videos. It was quite the phenomenon, hearing what was essentially a reggae song played in the middle of all the New Wave music that was huge in the 80s, but anyone that grew up in that era learned to really appreciate the song and how different it was.
The Red Red Wine song had a minor resurgence in 1988, thanks to a DJ playing it at a night club in Atlanta, Georgia, which prompted A&M Records to re-release the single. The single reached #1 on the Billboard 100 that year.A few years later, however, Neil Diamond himself covered the song, making this version a cover of a cover of a cover. Whew!
The Red Red Wine song has continued to find its place in pop culture by being covered by other reggae bands and being remixed for pop songs, but it is the UB40 version that we all know and love. Their version still gets played at weddings and parties, often accompanying – you guessed it – the drinking of red, red wine!