Terry Hall, singer with ska icons The Specials, dies at 63

Terry Hall, singer with ska icons The Specials, dies at 63

LONDON >> Musician Terry Hall, who helped create the defining sounds of post-punk Britain as lead singer of The Specials, has died. He was 63.

The band announced late Monday that Hall had died after a short illness. It called him “our wonderful friend, brother and one of the most brilliant singer, songwriter and lyricist this country has ever produced”.

Hall joined what would become The Specials in the English Midlands city of Coventry in the late 1970s, a time of racial tension, economic gloom and urban unrest. With a mix of black and white members and a Jamaican-influenced style of sharp suits and porkpie hats, the band became leaders of the anti-racist 2 Tone Ska Revival movement.

With Hall’s deadpan vocals, The Specials captured the troubled mood of the time on songs like “A Message to You, Rudy,” “Rat Race,” and “Too Much Too Young.”

The band’s most iconic song is the melancholy, menacing “Ghost Town,” which topped the UK music charts in the summer of 1981 as riots broke out in Britain’s cities.

The Specials had seven UK Top 10 hits before Hall and fellow band members Neville Staple and Lynval left Golding in 1981 to form electropop group Fun Boy Three. It garnered hits like “It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It”) and “The Tunnel of Love.”

Hall went on to form The Colourfield and other bands, and collaborated with artists such as The Go-Go’s – he co-wrote the group’s debut single Our Lips Are Sealed in 1981, which was also recorded by Fun Boy Three.

Go-Go guitarist Jane Wiedlin remembered Hall as “a lovely, sensitive, talented and unique person”.

“Our extremely brief romance resulted in the song ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ that will forever bind us together in music history. Terrible news to hear this,” she wrote on Twitter.

Singer-songwriter Elvis Costello also expressed his condolences, saying, “Terry’s voice was the perfect instrument for the true and necessary songs on ‘The Specials.’ That honesty can be heard in so many of his songs in joy and sorrow.”

Most of the original specials reunited in 2008, embarked on a 30th anniversary tour in 2009 and released an album of new material, ‘Encore’ in 2019, which became the band’s first UK No1 album. A follow-up, Protest Songs 1924-2012, was released in 2021.

Hall’s bandmates said he was “a wonderful husband and father and one of the kindest, funniest, genuine souls. His music and performances embodied the essence of life… the joy, the pain, the humor, the fight for justice, but most of all, love.”

“He will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him, leaving behind the gift of his remarkable music and deep humanity. Terry would often exit the stage at the end of The Specials’ life-affirming shows with three words… ‘Love Love Love’.”

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