Terry Hall, the longtime voice of legendary ska group The Specials has died after what the band termed a brief illness. He was 63.
Hall and the Specials reached their widest appeal with the haunting, socially conscious “Ghost Town,” which spent three weeks at No. 1 on the U.K. singles charts in 1981. The song was a commentary on economic strife in Margaret Thatcher’s England and the social unrest of the season, including riots that year in Britain. It was named “Single of the Year” by all three of the major UK music magazines.
The Specials were formed in the late ’70s by songwriter/keyboardist Dammers, vocalist Tim Strickland, guitarist/vocalist Lynval Golding, drummer Silverton Hutchinson and bassist Horace Panter (a.k.a. Sir Horace Gentleman). Strickland was replaced by Hall shortly after the band’s formation. They were at the vanguard of the the 2 Tone ska revival of the late 1970s in Britain, which fused Jamaican ska rhythms and melodies with faster tempos and a harder edge influenced by punk rock.
The band released two albums with Hall as frontman, starting with the 1979 all-time classic The Specials, which featured hard-to-forget uptempo tunes such as “A Message to You, Rudy,” “Nite Klub,” “Concrete Jungle,” “Monkey Man,” “(Dawning of A) New Era” and “Too Much Too Young.”
The 1980 followup More Specials featured songs like “Enjoy Yourself,” “Do Nothing”, “Stereotype” and “Rat Race.” It included collaborations with with Go-Go’s members Belinda Carlisle, Charlotte Caffey, and Jane Wiedlin; Rhoda Dakar from the Bodysnatchers; and Lee Thompson from Madness.
Hall also co-wrote the Go-Gos 1981 debut single “Our Lips Are Sealed” with Wiedlin.
After “Ghost Town” was released, Hall, Golding and Staple left The Specials to start Fun Boy Three. The band’s haunting hit single, “The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum),” was released in 1981 and was followed-up in 1982 with “It Ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It),” a duet with Bananarama. Fun Boy Three then provided guest vocals for Bananarama’s single, “Really Saying Something.” The band’s eponymous debut studio album reached No. 7 in the UK Albums Chart. In February 1983, Fun Boy Three released their second studio album, Waiting, which contained two Top Ten hits: “The Tunnel of Love” and their version of the aforementioned “Our Lips Are Sealed.”
Hall went on to stints with the Colourfield, Terry, Blair & Anouchka and Vegas before releasing two solo studio albums. He collaborated with the likes of Dave Stewart, the Lightning Seeds, Sinéad O’Connor, Stephen Duffy, Dub Pistols, Gorillaz, Damon Albarn, D12, Tricky, Junkie XL, Leila Arab, Lily Allen, Shakespears Sister, Salad and Nouvelle Vague.
In 2008, six members of the band — minus Dammers, who owned the rights to the band’s name — performed a surprise set on the Main Stage at Bestival. They continued touring, including a gig with the Rolling Stones, performing as recently as this year.
In 2019, the band released a new studio album entitled Encore. It went straight to the number one spot on the UK Albums Chart, becoming the highest-charting album they ever released.