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The Specials' Terry Hall Has Died, Aged 63
Christian Eede , December 19th, 2022 23:33

He passed following a brief illness, said a statement shared via The Specials' social media

Terry Hall, frontman of The Specials, has died, aged 63.

"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," said a statement shared by the band. "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."

Hall was born in Coventry in March 1959 to a working-class family who largely worked in the car industry. He joined The Specials, aged 18, shortly after the Coventry band formed in 1977. Hall replaced vocalist Tim Strickland, when the band were initially known as The Automatics at the time. Shifting to the name The Coventry Automatics for a brief period after, the band eventually began performing as The Specials and started to pick up attention via radio support from John Peel, as well as invitations from Joe Strummer to support The Clash at their live shows.

The Specials' debut single, 'Gangsters', was released in 1979 and peaked at No.6 in the UK's singles chart. The following year, they released their first No.1 single in the UK, 'Too Much Too Young', following it in 1981 with one of their best-known hits 'Ghost Town'. A multi-racial band, their music and lyrics carried a strong anti-racist message and shone a light on the urban decay that took hold of the UK through the 1970s and into the Thatcher years.

The band's first incarnation split acrimoniously in July 1981, having released two studio albums, The Specials in 1979 and More Specials in 1980, and scored seven consecutive UK top 10 singles. Hall left the band together with Neville Staple and Lynval Golding to form Fun Boy Three. He also formed another band, The Colourfield, in 1984, with whom he released the hit single 'Thinking Of You'.

Stepping out on his own, Hall released his debut solo album, Home in 1994, and a follow-up, Laugh, in 1997. He also collaborated with the likes of The Lightning Seeds' Ian Broudie, Blur's Damon Albarn (as well as Gorillaz), Toots And The Maytals, Lily Allen, and Eurythmics' Dave Stewart, with whom he formed a duo called Vegas in 1992, across the course of his career.

Hall was frequently open about his struggles with depression and manic depression, and in 2019, he told the comedian Richard Herring during an interview that he was abducted by a paedophile ring in France, aged 12. He didn't tell his parents at the time, and subsequently dropped out of education at the age of 14, having become addicted to the valium that he was prescribed. Hall later referenced the abuse that he experienced on Fun Boy Three's 1983 single 'Well Fancy That!', blaming a teacher for their involvement.

Hall rejoined The Specials in 2008 for a series of 30th anniversary shows which continued into 2009. The band had continued to tour since, with Hall as part of the lineup. In 2019, they released Encore, their first album since that 2008 reunion, but Hall revealed in interviews that he struggled to write lyrics for a follow-up, with the COVID-19 pandemic putting further strain on his inspiration.

"The arrival of the pandemic affected me enormously," he told tQ last year. "I spent around three months trying to figure out what was going on. I couldn't write a single word. I spent the time trying to figure out how not to die." Later in 2020, the band started work on Protest Songs 1924-2012, a covers record of historic protest songs, which was released in 2021 and took inspiration from uprisings of political and social protest, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, amid the lockdowns of the pandemic.

"He will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him and leaves behind the gift of his remarkable music and profound humanity," The Specials' statement confirming Hall's death added. "Terry often left the stage at the end of The Specials' life-affirming shows with three words… 'Love Love Love'."