The Specials have announced the death of legendary frontman Terry Hall.
Taking to social media, the ska icons confirmed that the influential singer had passed away from a “brief illness” at the age of 63. They honoured him as “a beautiful friend, brother and one of the most brilliant singers, songwriters and lyricists this country has ever produced”.
In a thread on Twitter, the band shared: “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.
“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’.
The band added: “We would ask that everyone respect the family’s privacy at this very sad time.”
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. (1/4) pic.twitter.com/qJHsI1oTwp
— The Specials (@thespecials) December 19, 2022
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. (2/4)
— The Specials (@thespecials) December 19, 2022
In the hours that have passed since he died, Hall’s colleagues have come out in droves to pay their respects. Among them is his former Specials bandmate Neville Staple, who wrote in a tweet: “I was deeply saddened to hear about Terry Hall’s passing on Sunday. [Christine ‘Sugary’ Staple] 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.”
Specials founder Jerry Dammers later added that “Terry’s death is very shocking, horrible and tragic news”.
“Terry was so young and I feel very sad,” he continued. “Contrary to some of what has been reported since, Terry and I got on well in the original Specials. Beyond our punky start on stage, it was in the studio with Elvis Costello producing, where Terry was able to sing quietly, that I think his hidden strength came out, a delivery which brought out the melancholy in some of The Specials’ songs, and which I think a lot of people could relate to. All my condolences and sympathies go out to his wife and family.”
"I was deeply saddened to hear about Terry Hall's passing on Sunday. @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 pic.twitter.com/sHNMJIwPII
— From THE SPECIALS Neville Staple (@NevilleStaple) December 19, 2022
Hall was born in Coventry on March 19, 1959, and prior to his musical breakout, endured a tumultuous childhood: as he detailed in 2019, he was abducted by a paedophile ring in France at age 12 (in 1971), with the experience leading him to develop an addiction to Valium.
He’d dropped out of school by age 15, working odd jobs like bricklaying and hairdressing before he became involved in Coventry’s music scene towards the end of the ‘70s.
After a short stint in the local punk band Squad, Hall joined The Coventry Automatics in 1977, replacing former singer Tim Strickland. That group would soon rebrand as The Specials, and two years later (in 1979), had their first Top 10 hit with ‘Gangsters’, a reimagining of ‘Al Capone’ by Prince Buster. Their eponymous debut album was released that October, with its follow-up, ‘More Specials’, arriving just 11 months later in September 1980.
Hall left The Specials in 1981, but reformed with the band – alongside other former members like guitarist Roddy Radiation and drummer John Bradbury – in 2008, with their long-awaited comeback album, ‘Encore’, arriving in 2019. In the intervening years before his reunion with The Specials, Hall performed with groups like the Fun Boy Three, The Colourfield, Vegas, and Terry, Blair & Anouchka.
He also released two solo albums (‘Home’ in 1994 and ‘Laugh’ in 1997), and collaborated with the likes of Lightning Seeds, Sinéad O’Connor, the Dub Pistols, Gorillaz, Damon Albarn, D12, Tricky and Lily Allen.
Hall remained active with The Specials into this year, with their last show together taking place at Escot Park in Devon on August 20. The band’s last release with Hall was the compilation ‘Protest Songs 1924-2012’, which arrived last September.
In a 2019 cover story for NME, Hall joked that his motivation for being in a band was “to piss people off”. He also noted that his leftist politics were shaped in part from his early school days, during a surge in immigration from the West Indies, Uganda and Northern Ireland: “You could feel the resentment breeding [in the community] from day one really, and you’ll find that that’s what happens – like when people come over and take these fictitious ‘jobs’.”
Among The Specials’ many accolades was the 2010 NME Award for Outstanding Contribution To Music. In accepting the trophy, Hall quipped: “This is the most urban award we’ve ever received, I can’t believe how gross it it! Thank you very much.”
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Hall was also a noted patron of Tonic, a UK-based mental health charity that operates two bespoke programmes: the Tonic Rider, which offers “training and support for music industry professionals”, and the Recovery Through Music initiative, offering “safe and supportive environments for people to come together, make music, be creative, and make social connections”.
In a quote on the charity’s website, Hall said: “These are terribly testing times for those of us with mental health issues. My mental health deteriorated towards the end of 2020. The thing that got me through was communication. If you’re suffering, then it is incredibly important to tell people… family, friends, doctors, Tonic! Tell them to check on you… always. Share your health issues… they aren’t problems. Most of all… stay safe… stay secure… We’ll get there!”
Other notable figures to share tributes have thus far included Sleaford Mods, megafan comedian Phil Jupitus, iconic photographer Kevin Cummins, Cass Browne of Senseless Things, Billy Bragg, The Libertines (who he performed ‘Gangsters’ with last August) and many more. Have a look at a handful of those tributes below:
TERRY HALL RIPNever meet your heroes, they say. Well, I did, and he became my friend.The Specials were my favourite…
Posted by Dub Pistols on Monday, December 19, 2022
What sad news, a great talent gone too soon.
Photo by @Mr_Dave_Haslam pic.twitter.com/xlnNJtfBJo
— New Order (@neworder) December 20, 2022
One of the greatest frontmen from one of the greatest bands.
And a gorgeous, kind, down to earth man. I’ll miss his music, his United post match honesty, his messages. 💔
❤️ Terry Hall Forever ❤️ pic.twitter.com/etTSo5Pl20
— Rowetta🎙 (@Rowetta) December 19, 2022
Rest In Peace Terry Hall. King of the Suedeheads. A big man. Hope you find peace now mate. ❤️
— Sleaford Mods (@sleafordmods) December 19, 2022
Oh blimey. I’m not one to rush on here when someone dies. Terry Hall, though. He was such a lovely bloke. A sweetheart.
— Tim Pope (@timpopedirector) December 19, 2022
Have always been a fan. So many songs of Terry Hall that I’ve loved throughout my life. Specials. Fun Boy Three. Colourfield ❤️ pic.twitter.com/QwMeHpkzGA
— Jo Whiley (@jowhiley) December 19, 2022
Very very sad to hear about Terry Hall. Truly one of the greats. A musical hero 💔
— Badly Drawn Boy (@badly_drawn_boy) December 19, 2022
2022 has been a particularly cruel year. So many brilliant people taken from us. TERRY HALL R.I.P. Thoughts are with his family and friends. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/2gebA7at15
— Marc Riley ⚽️🍺🐳 (@marcrileydj) December 19, 2022
I was honoured to play a gig for the charity @tonicmusicmh with @libertines where Terry Hall was a patron & campaigner recently. Not just a legendary musician but someone who cared deeply about helping people with mental health struggles. He’ll be very sadly missed.
— James Walsh (@jamesstarsailor) December 19, 2022
Sending love x pic.twitter.com/zbnmeM5MSi
— Libertines (@libertines) December 19, 2022
…Both times Terry Hall standing stock still at the center of the storm a melancholy counter point to the joyous energy of the band. Bringing the idiosyncratic and ironic songs to life beautifully . No more to Sing RIP Terry Hall.
— Lol Tolhurst (@LolTolhurst) December 19, 2022
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! pic.twitter.com/a7o2WYn3Uu
— Matt Goss (@mattgoss) December 19, 2022
This is a developing story