Terry Hall, lead voalist of the legendary British ska band the Specials, has died at the age of 63. The band confirmed Hall’s passing on social media, writing, “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,” the Specials continued. “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.”
Terry Hall was born and raised in the West Midlands city of Coventry. In 2019, he told the comedian Richard Herring that he was abducted by a paedophile ring in France at age 12, an experience he addressed in Fun Boy Three’s 1983 single ‘Well Fancy That!’. He lived with depression and manic depression and was medicated throughout his teenage years, later claiming that he took Valium when he was 13. After dropping out of school at 14, he worked menial jobs before joining his first band, the local punk outfit Squad.
In 1977, Hall became the frontman of the Automatics, a pioneering 2 Tone band that became known as the Specials, replacing original singer Tim Strickland. The group was introduced to a wider audience after Joe Strummer invited them to support the Clash live, releasing their debut single ‘Gangsters’, a rendition of Prince Buster’s 1964 Jamaican ska classic ‘Al Capone’, in 1979. It reached No. 6 in the UK singles chart, becoming the first in a series of top-10 hits. Elvis Costello produced the band’s 1979 self-titled debut, which was followed by their 1980 sophomore album More Specials. They scored their biggest hit with the 1981 smash ‘Ghost Town’, a song written by the band’s main songwriter about urban decay in England.
Hall went on to leave the Specials to form Fun Boy Three along with his bandmates Lynval Golding and Neville Staple. The trio released two albums, their 1982 self-titled record and 1983’s Waiting, before disbanding. Hall then started another new wave band called the Colourfield, which put out two LPs: Virgins and Philistines in 1985 and Deception in 1987. He also co-wrote ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ with The Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin, collaborated with Tricky, Damon Albarn, and Sinead O’Connor, and issued a few solo albums. The Specials’ most recent album, Protest Songs 1924–2012, came out last year.
Countless musicians have paid tribute to Hall in the wake of his passing, including Elvis Costello, Jane Wiedlin, Belinda Carlisle, Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, Rage Against the Machine, Boy George, Living Colour, Billy Bragg, Sleaford Mods, and more.
“I was deeply saddened to hear about Terry Hall’s passing on Sunday,” Neville Staple wrote. “@SugaryStaple was called as we arrived in Egypt. 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. This has hit me hard and must be extremely difficult for Terry’s wife and family. Sugary and I, extend our heartfelt condolences to them all at this extremely difficult time. 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.”