How “Red Red Wine” by UB40 became an unlikely hit.

How a Failed Neil Diamond Song Became a No. 1 Pop Hit

How a Failed Neil Diamond Song Became a No. 1 Pop Hit

Slate's weekly roundtable.
April 28 2017 7:03 AM

Hit Parade: The Rogue DJ Edition

A new podcast about how that song you love—or hate—became a smash.

Neil Diamond Aladdin Theater For the Performing Arts 1976
Neil Diamond performs in 1976.

Jessie Eastland/Wikipedia

In this debut episode, Chris Molanphy tells the story of “Red Red Wine,” a song written in the 1960s by a certain journeyman singer-songwriter who loves a Hot August Night. Improbably, it became a reggae song, before the ’60s were even over—and then, even more improbably, in the 1980s it was transformed into a lilting, toasting reggae-pop global smash. And it would have been a flop in America if it hadn’t been for an enterprising DJ who ignored the record labels and picked his own hits. With this song, he even started a two-year fad and a radio mutiny.

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Podcast production by Steve Lickteig.