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Astro's nickname derives from a pair of shoes he used to wear as a child. Pic: AP

UB40 founding member Astro dies after short illness

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UB40 founding member Astro has died at the age of 64.

The musician, whose real name is Terence Wilson, passed away after a short illness.

Announcing the news, the band said they are “absolutely devastated and completely heartbroken”.

Undated handout photo issued by Swell Publicity of former UB40 member Astro, real name Terence Wilson, who has died after a short illness, his current band has confirmed. The musician went on to perform with breakaway group UB40 featuring Ali Campbell (left). Issue date: Saturday November 6, 2021.
Ali Campbell (left) and Astro were due to go on tour next year

“The world will never be the same without him,” they said in a statement.

“We ask you to please respect his family’s privacy at this incredibly difficult time.”

UB40 have sold more than 70m records and have had three UK number one hits, with 39 singles and 28 albums in the UK top 40.

Astro sang lead vocals on the single Rat In Mi Kitchen, which reached number 12 in 1987 – a song he wrote in response to Ali Campbell’s problems with rodents.

The group’s name was chosen in reference to a form issued to people claiming unemployment benefits at the time – “Unemployment Benefit, Form 40”.

The original band describes itself as working class, with some of its members having to survive on less than £8 a week in benefits in the early days of their careers.

They 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.

UB40 pictured in 1984. Pic: AP
UB40 pictured in 1984. Pic: AP

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.”

Astro’s nickname was given to him when he was a child because he wore a pair of Dr Martens boots with the model name “Astronaut”, the musician said in a 2016 interview with website UK Music Reviews.

“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 passing comes after the death of fellow UB40 founding member Brian Travers in August.

About Charles Igbinidu

Charles Igbinidu is a Public Relations practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria

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