Brian Travers, saxophone player and songwriter for UB40, has died, the band announced on Monday (Aug. 23) via social media. He was 62.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our comrade, brother, founding UB40 member and musical legend, Brian David Travers,” the British reggae-pop band shared alongside a photo of the musician. “Brian passed away yesterday evening the his family by his side, after a long and heroic battle with cancer.”
“Our thoughts are with Brian’s wife Lesley, his daughter Lisa and son Jamie,” the statement concluded: “We are all devastated by this news and ask that you respect the family’s need for privacy at this time.”
Travers co-founded the group in 1978 with Robin Campbell, Ali Campbell, Earl Falconer, James Brown, and Norman Hassan in Birmingham, England. Mickey Virtue and Astro joined in 1979, and the lineup remained the same until frontman Ali left in 2008.
Together, the group landed five songs on the Billboard Hot 100: “Red Red Wine” climbed to the summit in 1988 and spent 40 weeks on the chart; “Can’t Help Falling in Love” was No. 1 in 1993 and stayed on the chart for 29 weeks; “I Got You Babe” (a collab with Chrissie Hynde) reached No. 28 in 1985; “The Way You Do the Things You Do” peaked at No. 6 in 1990; and “Here I Am (Come and Take Me) reached a high of No. 7 in 1991. Notably, all five songs were cover versions. They were first popularized by Neil Diamond, Elvis Presley, Sonny & Cher, The Temptations and Al Green, respectively.
Their 1993 album, Promises and Lies, was the group’s biggest chart success, peaking at No. 6 on the all-genre Billboard 200. UB40 has also earned four Grammy nominations: best reggae recording (album) in 1987 for UB40 CCCP (Live in Moscow); best reggae recordings for UB40 (album) and Breakfast in Bed (track) in 1988; and best reggae album for Who You Fighting For in 2006.
In March 2019, Travers announced that he was undergoing surgery for a brain tumor, and wouldn’t be joining UB40 on their 40th anniversary tour.
“I shall be there in spirit, cheering them on from my convalescence and thinking of all the wonderful people out there who have supported us for the last 40 years, who I am now incredibly proud to count as friends,” he shared in a Facebook post at the time. “I’ve had a great life with no regrets and have absolutely nothing to add to a bucket list except getting over this and getting back to the thing I love, playing music to anyone who wants to listen and expressing myself through painting & sculpture. It’s been a huge privilege and I think you all for the opportunity to ‘live the dream.'”