Former UB40 band member and saxophonist Brian David Travers loses brain cancer battle

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Duncan Campbell and Brian David Travers of UB40 perform live on stage during a Rewind Scotland show in July 2018 in Perth, Scotland. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Duncan Campbell and Brian David Travers of UB40 perform live on stage during a Rewind Scotland show in July 2018 in Perth, Scotland. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

He was one of the founding members of one of the most popular reggae-pop bands of all time.

But this week UB40’s saxophonist and co-songwriter Brian David Travers sadly lost his battle with brain cancer.

In a poignant message on social media, his bandmates said they were devastated by the news of the death of their “comrade and brother”, who died on 22 August aged 62 at his home in Birmingham, England, with his family at his side.

They said he endured a “long and heroic battle” with the disease, which saw him having surgery to remove two brain tumours in 2019. He reportedly then had another operation earlier this year.

“Our thoughts are with Brian’s wife, Lesley, his daughter, Lisa, and son, Jamie,” their statement read.

“We’re all devastated by this news and ask that you respect the family’s need for privacy at this time.”

Brian’s last performance with the band was in Birmingham in December 2019.

He was a key part of the UB40 line-up as a saxophone player, arranger and lyricist.

The group formed in the city in 1978 and went on to have a long and illustrious career, accumulating four Grammys for best reggae album and selling more than 70 million records worldwide. Their catchy hits – including Red Red Wine, (I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You and Rat in Mi Kitchen – are still popular today.

But in 2008 the band’s stable line-up was rocked by controversy when founding member and frontman Ali Campbell (now 62) left after a dispute with management, followed shortly by keyboardist Mickey Virtue (64). Ali’s older brother, Duncan (63), took over as the band’s new vocalist.

(PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Original UB40 band members Astro, Ali Campbell and Michael Virtue attend the fundraising concert, BBC Children in Need Rocks the 80s, in October 2017 in London. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

In 2013 another band member, Astro (64), left to team up with Ali and Mickey in a new version of UB40.

In 2014 the remaining members of the original band, which included Brian, took legal action against Ali over use of the band name.

The result saw Ali having to record and perform under the name UB40 Featuring Ali, Astro and Mickey.

It caused an ugly family rift, with Ali saying at the time, “I sat back for five years and watched my brother Duncan murdering my songs. We’re saving the legacy.”

In another surprising move, it was announced last month that Matt Doyle (34) – formerly of the reggae band Kioko – would be replacing Duncan after the vocalist announced he was retiring following ill health.

Duncan suffered a seizure at his home last month after suffering a stroke in August last year.

Kioko had previously supported their fellow Birmingham reggae band on tour.

“I don’t quite know how to put into words just how incredibly honoured and grateful I feel to be given this opportunity,” says Matt, whose lead vocals feature on the track You Don’t Call Anymore from the band’s new collaborations album.

Sources:,, Twitter

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