One in a million

Dave Woodhall pays tribute to the late Brian Travers.

“I’ve had more top forties than the Bee Gees.” That was what Brian Travers said to me the last time we spoke.

Actually, that’s a bit of an exaggeration because I only ever spoke to him a couple of times and both occasions were in the company of other people, but you thought of him as someone you knew even on such casual acquaintance. In every photo ever taken of Brian he looked like the kind of bloke you’d find drinking the afternoon away in the sort of pub that’s almost impossible to find now; everyone’s friend and with a word for them all. As a mutual friend who knew him better than I did said when hearing of his passing, “Brian made everyone he met feel ten feet tall.”

We’ve said plenty on here about UB40 over the years. About the great music they made, about the bitterness of their split and of how they, almost uniquely amongst the bands who came from Birmingham to conquer the world, stayed true to their roots. The band earned a fortune, lost it and ended up bankrupt.

Part of that was as a result of legal battles but a lot of it was because what they had, they gave back. They gave to their community, they encouraged young musicians, they invested in local businesses. Brian not only added that haunting yet powerful sax sound to UB40’s greatest moments, he was also, in later years, the heartbeat of the band. Perhaps more than any of his fellow band members he remained closest to the spirit from which they came.

UB40 started out at the same time as the Beat, sharing not only a common Balsall Heath heritage but also a passionate belief in social justice and equality through the power of their music. Ranking Roger, singer with the Beat, died in the week that Brian’s illness was first announced. He once said that he would have loved to sing with UB40, to which the band responded, “If only we’d known forty years ago.” You can’t help but think that now, in part, he can.

He may have written One in Ten, but Brian Travers was one in a million.

Pic – Richard Purvis