Band pays tribute to The Specials singer Terry Hall who died aged 63

The Specials frontman Terry Hall has died aged 63 from a ‘brief illness’, with bandmates paying tribute to the ‘kindest, funniest and most genuine of souls’ who was ‘one of the most brilliant singers and songwriters Britain has ever produced’. 

Hall, who rose to fame with mega hits like Ghost Town, Gangsters and Too Much Too Young, pioneered the British ska scene and – through his often caustic lyrics – chronicled the social unrest and economic turmoil facing the country at the turn of the 1980s.     

Announcing the father of two’s death on Twitter, the band said: ‘It is with great sadness that we announce the passing, following a brief illness, of Terry, our beautiful friend, brother and one of the most brilliant singers, songwriters and lyricists this country has ever produced.

‘Terry was a wonderful husband and father and one of the kindest, funniest, and most genuine of souls. His music and his performances encapsulated the very essence of life… the joy, the pain, the humour, the fight for justice, but mostly the love.    

Terry Hall, lead singer of The Specials, has died at the age of 63, the band has announced

Terry Hall, lead singer of The Specials, has died at the age of 63, the band has announced

Hall seen performing for the last time on June 28, 2022 at Paradiso in Amsterdam

Hall seen performing for the last time on June 28, 2022 at Paradiso in Amsterdam

The Specials pictured in 1980 during a trip to New York

The Specials pictured in 1980 during a trip to New York 

The post went on to say: ‘He will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him and leaves behind the gift of his remarkable music and profound humanity. Terry often left the stage at the end of The Specials’ life-affirming shows with three words… ”Love Love Love”. We would ask that everyone respect the family’s privacy at this very sad time.’

It is not yet known what the cause of Hall’s death was.  

Bandmate Neville Staples led the tributes to the singer today, tweeting: ‘This has hit me hard. We knew Terry had been unwell but didn’t realise how serious until recently. We had only just confirmed some 2023 joint music agreements together.

‘In the music world, people have many ups and downs, but I will hang onto the great memories of Terry and I, making history fronting The Specials and Fun Boy three together. Rest easy Terry Hall.’

Culture Club frontman Boy George called it a ‘sad day’, tweeting: ‘Very sad to hear about Terry Hall! Absolutely loved him as an artist.’

Singer-songwriter Elvis Costello offered his condolences, tweeting: ‘Sad to receive the news of Terry Hall’s passing last night from Lynval Golding.

‘Terry’s voice was the perfect instrument for the true and necessary songs on ‘The Specials’. That honesty is heard in so many of his songs in joy and sorrow. My condolences to his family and friends.’   

Born in Coventry in 1959, Hall was shaped by a horrific experience of childhood sexual abuse when he was abducted by a paedophile ring on a trip to France aged 12. 

Hall sang about the harrowing ordeal with the song Well Fancy That – performed as part of his second band Fun Boy Three – and told interviewers how it left him suffering from bouts of depression and addiction problems. 

The band in 2010, pictured left to right: Terry Hall, Neville Staple, Roddy Byers, John Bradbury, Lynval Golding and Nik Torp

The band in 2010, pictured left to right: Terry Hall, Neville Staple, Roddy Byers, John Bradbury, Lynval Golding and Nik Torp

The Specials performing at the Hope and Anchor, London 1980 (pictured are Staple and Hall)

The Specials performing at the Hope and Anchor, London 1980 (pictured are Staple and Hall)

The singer-songwriter rose to fame as part of the band, who were pioneers of the ska scene in the UK

Hall is survived by his wife, the director Lindy Heymann. They had one son, while Hall has two older sons with his ex-wife, Jeanette Hall

Hall is survived by his wife, the director Lindy Heymann. They had one son, while Hall has two older sons with his ex-wife, Jeanette Hall

A HISTORY OF SKA: FROM 1950s JAMAICA TO 1980s BRITAIN

Ska is a combined musical element of Caribbean Mento and Calypso with a bit of American Jazz and also Rhythm and Blues. 

It separates itself from other musical genres due to its walking bass line accented with rhythms on the upbeat. In the early 1960s, Ska was the dominant music genre of Jamaica and was popular with the other communities as well, including the British Community.

Ska music was made for dancing. It stand out because the music is upbeat, quick and exciting. 

Musically, it can be characterized with a drumbeat on the 2nd and 4th beats (in 4/4 time) and with the guitar hitting the 2nd, 3rd and 4th beats. 

Traditional Ska bands generally featured bass, drums, guitars, keyboards, horns with sax, trombone and trumpet being most common.

Music historians typically divide the history of Ska into three periods: the original Jamaican scene of the 1960s (First Wave); the English 2 Tone Ska revival of the late 1970s (Second Wave); and the third wave Ska movement, which started in the 1980s and rose to popularity in the US in the 1990s. 

Without a doubt Ska has set a musical standard for genres that follow it such as Reggae and Rocksteady.

Source: Jamaicansmusic.com

The Specials were formed in Hall’s home city of Coventry in 1977, by Jerry Dammers, Lynval Golding and Horace Panter – with Hall, Neville Staple, Roddy Byers and John Bradbury joining a year later.

The band were originally called The Automatics, before changing their name to The Coventry Automatics, The Specials AKA The Automatics and finally, in 1978, settling on The Specials.

They made a name for themselves their ska and rocksteady style, and for providing a musical backdrop to economic recession, urban decay and societal fracture in the early 1980s.

The reggae punk band’s hits included Ghost Town, which spent three weeks at number one and 10 weeks in the UK Top 40. Hall also released two studio albums and has collaborated with the likes Bananarama, Gorillaz and Lily Allen.

The band split in 1981, after which Hall, Golding and Staple went on to form Fun Boy Three, while Dammers and Bradbury released an album under the moniker The Special AKA, which spawned the hit single Free Nelson Mandela in 1984.

Fun Boy Three achieved four UK top 10 singles during their time together, until Hall left the band in 1983 to form The Colourfield with ex-Swinging Cats members Toby Lyons and Karl Shale.

After undertaking a variety of solo and collaborative projects – Hall worked with the likes of Lily Allen – it was announced in 2008 that The Specials would be reforming for a number of tour dates and potential new music.

In September that year, Hall and five members of the band performed at Bestival music festival under the name Very ‘Special’ Guests.

In 2009 he reflected on the performance, saying: ‘Bestival was a trial run. We did an unannounced slot so we could just could turn up, nameless. It was perfect.’

The Specials embarked on a 2009 tour to celebrate their 30th anniversary and in 2018 supported The Rolling Stones during a concert at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena.           

People from across the music world paid tribute to Hall as news of his passing was revealed

People from across the music world paid tribute to Hall as news of his passing was revealed

‘At 12 I got abducted by a paedophile ring’ 

Terry Hall hall was described being abducted by a paedophile ring when he was 12 in France as a ‘real eye-opener’ while speaking to Richard Herring on his podcast in 2019.

The singer said he lived with depression as a result and dropped out of school at 14.

‘I was sort of drugged up then on Valium for about a year and I didn’t go to school,’ he added.

He then spent time working odd jobs like bricklaying before joining a punk band called Squad.

He said the traumatic event in his childhood has affected him his whole life.

The abduction was mentioned in Fun Boy Three’s song Well Fancy That –  which detailed how the abuse was at the hands of a teacher.

The lyrics included, ‘You took me to France on the promise of teaching me French’.

He said in 2019: ‘It’s unfortunate it happened to me but you can’t just let it destroy your life, it’s not good.’

In February 2019, The Specials released Encore, their first album of new material in 37 years.

Upon release, the album went straight to number one on the Official UK Album Chart, marking their first number one album, and the first time they had topped the charts since their classic track Ghost Town in 1981 and since their single Too Much Too Young became a number one in 1980.

The album’s lead single, the politically-themed Vote For Me, was considered by some fans as a follow-on from Ghost Town, which was hailed as a piece of popular social commentary having been released during the riots across England in 1981.

Hall told The Big Issue magazine in 2019: ‘I find myself in awe of the mess, nightly listening to politicians giving their opinion and thinking, I don’t necessarily trust any of you, really.

‘It is pretty sad. I grew up aligned to a party, the Labour Party, quite strongly. Until Tony Blair made Noel Gallagher prime minister I knew exactly where I stood.’

Figures from across the music world have paid tribute to Hall. 

Jane Wiedlin, guitarist and co-founder of The Go-Go’s, who co-wrote the band’s breakout hit Our Lips Are Sealed with Hall, joined Staple in mourning his death.

She wrote on Twitter: ‘Gutted to hear of the passing of #terryhall. He was a lovely, sensitive, talented and unique person.

‘Our extremely brief romance resulted in the song Our Lips Are Sealed, which will forever tie us together in music history. Terrible news to hear this.’

Wiedlin’s bandmate and Heaven Is A Place On Earth singer Belinda Carlisle said The Go-Go’s and Hall were ‘forever bound in music history’. 

The band made a name with their ska and rocksteady style, and for providing a musical backdrop to economic recession, urban decay and societal fracture in the early 1980s

The band made a name with their ska and rocksteady style, and for providing a musical backdrop to economic recession, urban decay and societal fracture in the early 1980s

The band were originally called The Automatics, before changing their name to The Coventry Automatics, The Specials AKA The Automatics and finally, in 1978, settling on The Specials

The band were originally called The Automatics, before changing their name to The Coventry Automatics, The Specials AKA The Automatics and finally, in 1978, settling on The Specials

Hall (middle) performing with Staple (left) and Golding (right) as part of The Fun Boy Three

Hall (middle) performing with Staple (left) and Golding (right) as part of The Fun Boy Three 

Punk and folk singer Frank Turner wrote on Twitter that The Specials were one of the ‘most important’ figures of his childhood.

‘God damnit. Just heard the news about Terry Hall. What an absolute sadness,’ he said.

‘The Specials were one of the most important bands for me as a kid. Taught me many things I needed to know. Gutted. RIP.’

Folk singer Billy Bragg paid tribute to Hall’s cultural impact on Britain in the 1970s.

He tweeted: ‘The Specials were a celebration of how British culture was envigorated by Caribbean immigration but the onstage demenour of their lead singer was a reminder that they were in the serious business of challenging our perception of who we were in the late 1970s. RIP Terry Hall.’  

Lightning Seeds frontman Ian Broudie kept his tribute short, posting an emoji of a broken heart alongside a picture of himself with Hall. 

Hall was was originally spotted by The Specials' Jerry Dammers, who recruited him as a frontman

Hall was was originally spotted by The Specials’ Jerry Dammers, who recruited him as a frontman

The band made a name with their ska and rocksteady style, and for providing a musical backdrop to economic recession, urban decay and societal fracture in the early 1980s

The band made a name with their ska and rocksteady style, and for providing a musical backdrop to economic recession, urban decay and societal fracture in the early 1980s

Comedian David Baddiel followed a similar vein, writing on Twitter: ‘Terry Hall was great. That’s the tweet.’

Radio DJ Jo Whiley tweeted: ‘Horrid news. Have always been a fan. So many songs of Terry Hall that I’ve loved throughout my life. Specials. Fun Boy Three. Colourfield’.

Fellow West Midland’s band UB40 tweeted: ‘We are very sad to hear of the passing of Terry Hall the lead singer of The Specials. Another one gone too soon. RIP Terry’.

Matt Goss added: ‘I’m in shock that one of my favourite singer songwriters, Terry Hall has passed away. The Specials represent my youth, they represent everything about my teenage years, they were THE BAND that got us out of our homes and into the school discos & clubs!’

Dexys Midnight Runners added: ‘Very sorry and shocked, to hear the sad news about the lovely, and brilliant Terry Hall. Rest in peace Terry. All the best to Terry’s family and The Specials. Love from Dexys.’    

In February 2019, The Specials released Encore, their first album of new material in 37 years (Pictured: Terry Hall at the Brit Awards in 1997)

In February 2019, The Specials released Encore, their first album of new material in 37 years (Pictured: Terry Hall at the Brit Awards in 1997)

The Specials performs live on stage during their 30th Anniversary reunion tour at Hammersmith Apollo on November 24, 2009

The Specials performs live on stage during their 30th Anniversary reunion tour at Hammersmith Apollo on November 24, 2009

Author: Hardeep Singh

With over 2 years of experience in the field of journalism, Hardeep Singh heads the editorial operations of the Elite News as the Executive Writer.

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