Terry Hall: 5 Things To Know About The Specials Singer Dead At 63

Terry Hall, one of the most influential voices of the second wave of ska, has died. Here's what you need to know about the late lead singer for The Specials.

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  • Terry Hall is best known as the vocalist for The Specials, a ska/2-tone band from the late 1970s.
  • Terry was also part of Fun Boy Three and The Colourfield.
  • Terry died at age 63 after a “brief illness.”

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing, following a brief illness, of Terry [Hall], our beautiful friend, brother, and one of the most brilliant singers, songwriters, and lyricists this country has ever produced,” the official Twitter account for The Specials, the English ska band, posted on Monday (Dec. 19). Hall was 63. The band’s message described him as “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 humor, 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,” the band’s message continued. “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 is survived by his second wife, Lindy Heymann, and their son, Orson, as well as by two sons, Leo and Felix, from his previous marriage, to Jeannette Hall.

As the world continues to mourn and play “Ghost Town” on repeat, here’s what you need to know about Terry Hall.

Terry Hall Was The Lead Vocalist For The Specials

Terence Edward Hall was born on March 19, 1959. “I come from a gypsy-spirited family, and everyone used to sing in pubs whether you liked it or not. I didn’t want to be that sort of singer,” he told The Guardian in 2009. Raised in Coventry, England, Hall first began singing in local punk bands. Hall replaced Tim Strickland as the lead vocalist in a band first called The Automatics, then the Coventry Automatics, before settling on The Specials.

The band pioneered two-tone, a mixture of traditional Jamaican ska music with elements of punk and new wave. “My sisters were skinheads, and they would listen to ska while our gang listened to reggae,” Hall told The Guardian. “I think we were labeled a ska band on the first album,” he told The Quietus in 2021.More Specials [the band’s second album] put a huge dent in that label which was great. I have never put myself under any label. I think my work shows that.”

“Hall never tried to imitate the old Jamaican ska vocalists, even when he was essaying their material,” The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis wrote in its memorial to the singer. “Instead, he sang in a cheerless, unaffected British voice – you could occasionally catch a hint of the Midlands about his vowels – that could rise to a wail if needed. It was perfect for the Specials’ lyrics, which conjured up a spectacularly grim vision of late ’70s Britain on their debut album – violence lurks around every corner, different youth cults battle it out, and the National Front is on the march – and grew bleaker still on More Specials.

He Used His Voice To Find Light In The Darkness

The bleakness and sadness may have come from trauma. At age 12, Hall was abducted by one of his schoolteachers and trafficked in a pedophile ring in France. The trauma resulted in him being put on valium at age 13.

“I’ve been singing about mental illness, it’s understandable that people would want to look at the causes. I’ve spent the last ten years recovering from horrific episodes of manic depression, and it’s been so important for me to stress that there is a recovery, there is a route out of it,” he told Uncut.

As part of Fun Boy Three, Hall put his experience into the song “Well Fancy That.” But, not many knew that the song was autobiographical. “There were people who connected with it,” he told Uncut. “I was in Los Angeles, and someone drove 200 miles on his scooter when he found out that I was on a radio show ’cos he just wanted to say that he’d been through the same thing, and he wanted to talk about it. It’s very important. Being in a band is all about communicating ideas.”

Hall would use his voice to sing about racial justice, equality, and economic issues while growing up in Margaret Thatcher’s England.

A Lad From Brixton Inspired Him To Reach For The Stars

“When I was 16, this album gave me a look, a sound, and a way of holding yourself,” Hall told The Guardian in 2009. The album in question was Young Americans by David Bowie. “Apparently all his clothes were from Wal-Mart at this time. He put a blond streak in his hair, and we would do the same. Then you would go to football and get punched in the face. It was very important, really. Everything Bowie did at this time was dead cool, unlike all that Spiders From Mars shit.”

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A ‘Brief Romance’ Resulted In A Hit For The Go-Go’s

“Gutted to hear of the passing of #terryhall. He was a lovely, sensitive, talented, and unique person,” tweeted Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go’s following Hall’s death. “Our extremely brief romance resulted in the song ‘Our Lips Are Sealed,’ which will forever tie us together in music history. Terrible news to hear this.”

The Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed,” which reached No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, was co-written by Hall. “In 1980, we were playing at The Whisky on Sunset Strip, and The Specials were in town from England. They came to see us, and they really liked us and asked us if we would be their opening act on their tour. I met Terry Hall, the singer of The Specials, and ended up having kind of a romance,” Weidlin told Songfacts.

“He sent me the lyrics to ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ later in the mail, and it was kind of about our relationship because he had a girlfriend at home and all this other stuff. So it was all very dramatic,” she added. “I really liked the lyrics, so I finished the lyrics and wrote the music to it, and the rest is history.”

He Quit While He Was On Top

The Specials’ struck a chord with the UK youth of the late 1970s/early 1980s. They had a handful of Top 10 hits (“Gangers,” “A Message To You Rudy,” “Rat Race,” “Stereotypes,” “Do Nothing”) and a pair of No. 1’s – the title track to their Too Much Too Young EP (per Consequence), and “Ghost Town.”

When recording an appearance for Top of the Pops, the British music chart program, Hall announced that he and his bandmates, Neville Staple and Lynval Golding, were leaving the band due to internal clashes. The three formed Fun Boy Three, which leaned more into new wave. The band experienced success with seven UK Top 20 hits, including “It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It)” and “The Tunnel Of Love.” Their version of “Our Lips Our Sealed” also cracked the Top 10, reaching No. 7.

After Fun Boy Three fell apart, Hall formed The Colourfield in 1984. Hall would also perform in groups Vegas and Terry, Blair and Anouchka. Hall would never stop performing and recording, spending most of the 1990s as a solo artist.

In the late 2000s, Hall participated in The Specials reunion, and the band released two albums – Encore and Protest Songs.

 

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