Ska icon Terry Hall, singer of The Specials, dies at 63

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

The group announced late Monday that Hall had died after a short illness. He called her “our beautiful friend, our brother, and one of the most brilliant singers, songwriters and songwriters this country has produced.”

Hall joined the group that would become The Specials in the English Midlands city of Coventry in the late 1970s, during a time of racial tension, economic gloom, and urban unrest. With a mix of black and white members and sharp suits and pig hats influenced by Jamaica, the group became the leaders of the anti-apartheid 2 Tone ska revival movement.

The Specials, where Hall’s dead vocals set the tone, captured the restless 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 as riots broke out in England’s cities in the summer of 1981.

The Specials had seven Top 10 hits in the UK before Hall and fellow band members Neville Staple and Lynval Golding split to form Fun Boy Three in 1981. He has scored hits like “It’s Not What You Do” and “Tunnel of Love”.

Hall later formed The Colourfield and collaborated with artists including The Go-Go’s, which co-wrote the band’s 1981 debut single, “Our Lips Are Sealed.”

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

“Our extremely short love affair resulted in the song Our Lips Are Sealed, which will bind us together forever in music history. This is terrible news to hear,” he wrote on Twitter.

Singer-songwriter Elvis Costello also offered his condolences, saying, “Terry’s voice was the perfect instrument for the real and necessary songs on ‘The Specials’. This honesty is heard in many of his songs with joy and sorrow.

Most of the original Specials were reunited in 2008, held their 30th anniversary tour in 2009, and released a new album in 2019 called “Encore”, the band’s first UK #1 album. In 2021, the sequel “Protest Songs 1924-2012” was released.

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

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

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