Terry Hall: lead singer of the Specials dies aged 63 | Terry Hall

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Terry Hall, lead singer of the Specials and former member of Fun Boy Three and the Colourfield, has died at the age of 63, his bandmates have confirmed in the Specials.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing, after a short illness, of Terry, our beautiful friend, brother and one of the most brilliant singers, songwriters and lyricists this country has ever produced.” the band tweeted.

“Terry was a wonderful husband and father and one of the kindest, funniest and most genuine souls. His music and performances capture the essence of life… the joy, the pain, the humour, the fight for justice, but above all, love.”

The band asked for the privacy of the van Hall family to be respected.

Neville Staple, Hall’s bandmate in the Specials and Fun Boy Three, said he was “deeply saddened” by the news.

“We knew Terry was unwell but only recently realized how serious it was,” He wrote. “We had just signed some joint music deals for 2023 together. This has hit me hard and must be extremely hard on Terry’s wife and family.”

Hall joined the first incarnation of the Specials – then called the Automatics – shortly after the Coventry band formed in 1977, replacing lead singer Tim Strickland. After a period as the Coventry Automatics, they became Special AKA, known as the Specials. The pioneering 2 Tone band grew thanks to the support of Joe Strummer, who invited them to support the Clash live, and BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel.

They released their debut single Gangsters (an adaptation of Prince Buster’s Al Capone) in 1979, which reached No. 6 in the UK Singles Chart. They would dominate the Top 10 for the next two years, culminating in their second No. 1 single and calling card, Ghost Town, in 1981. The lyrics, written by the band’s main songwriter Jerry Dammers, dealt with the urban decay in Britain, unemployment and disadvantaged youth.

Its popularity peaked in the early summer of 1981 when riots broke out in the UK between young black people and the police in response to racial discrimination and the use of stop-and-search tactics. It stayed at number 1 for three weeks, spent 10 weeks in the Top 40 and is widely regarded as one of the greatest pop records of all time. “It’s in the past, brooding and menacing to us, its remarkable, dark power undimmed,” wrote Guardian critic Alexis Petridis in 2020.

The Specials: Ghost Town – video

Among those paying tribute on Tuesday was musician Billy Bragg. “The Specials were a celebration of how British culture was enhanced by Caribbean immigration, but their singer’s demeanor on stage was a reminder that they were serious about challenging our perceptions of who we were in the late 1970s.” he tweeted.

The Specials were a celebration of how British culture was enhanced by Caribbean immigration, but their singer’s demeanor on stage was a reminder that they were serious about challenging our perceptions of who we were in the late 1970s. RIP Terry Hall pic.twitter.com/PVwbXyXubq

— Billy Bragg (@billybragg) December 19, 2022

Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Gos and Hall’s former partner wrote that she was “gutted”. “He was a beautiful, sensitive, talented and unique person. Our very short romance resulted in the song Our Lips Are Sealed, which will forever connect us in music history. Terrible news to hear this’ she tweeted.

Chris Difford of Squeeze called Hall “a man of few words verbally, but so many great words in song. I have always admired and envied his stroke of the pen”, while Rowetta remembered him as “one of the greatest frontmen of one of the greatest bands. And a wonderful, kind, down-to-earth man. Badly Drawn Boy called him “a musical hero”while Sleaford mods said Hall was “King of the Suedeheads.” A big man. I hope you find peace now mate.” Boy George tweeted that he was “very sad” adding, “I absolutely loved him as an artist. Sad day!”

Hall was born in Coventry on March 19, 1959 to a family that worked primarily in the motor industry. He was an academically gifted child and also a well-known footballer who was invited to try out for West Bromwich Albion – an opportunity his parents turned down due to the inconvenience of traveling around the Midlands. After he passed the 11-plus exam, his parents also refused his place at a nearby gymnasium.

“All of a sudden they were expected to buy books and a school uniform,” he told Fantastic Man. ‘I was just walking to school, dressed in my football kit. So there’s always been a little bit of that kicking in the back of my mind. Not being educated. I wonder what would have happened if I had gone.”

In 2019, Hall told comedian Richard Herring that he had been kidnapped at the age of 12 by a pedophile gang in France, an incident he had previously mentioned in the single Well Fancy That! of 1983’s Fun Boy Three, who blamed a teacher for the ordeal: “You took me to France with the promise to teach me French,” he sang.

Hall “hid it” and did not tell his parents. “They both worked in factories. They were paid in cash. My father was a heavy drinker. They had their own lives, you know?

It resulted in Hall being medicated and living with depression and manic depression throughout his teenage years. “I was on Valium when I was 13 and it took my life for six months,” he told the Big Issue.

He dropped out of school at the age of 14, feeling forced into nonconformity. “I can laugh about it now, but it changed something in my head, and it’s like I don’t have to, and then I started not listening to anyone.”

Groundbreaking… The Specials. Photo: John Rodgers/Redferns

His political awakening came in his teens “when I discovered working-class clubs had color bars on their doors. You could only get in if you were white. That really shocked me. I couldn’t figure it out.”

After working as a bricklayer, among other things, he joined his first band, the punk group Squad, inspired by the Clash and the Sex Pistols. His older sister, and leading influence, Teresa introduced him to Trojan Records, while it was David Bowie’s 1975 album Young Americans that propelled Hall to become a singer, he told the Guardian in 2009. like it or not. I didn’t want to be that kind of singer. When I was 16, this album gave me a look, a sound, and a way to hold yourself. Apparently all of his clothes at the time were from WalMart. He put a blonde lock in his hair and we would do the same.”

Then came the special offers. The band released their self-titled debut album in October 1979 and received acclaim for blending a punk sensibility – and sharp lyrics about the degradation of modern Britain – with the traditional Jamaican ska sound, even explicitly updated hits from the likes of Toots and the Maytals, Prince Buster and Dandy Livingstone.

Today, the album is widely regarded as a landmark recording: it was ranked No. 42 on Pitchfork’s list of the greatest albums of the 1970s, and No. 260 on NME’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, published in 2013. The band released a second, even darker album, More Specials, in 1980.

The multiracial group was active in the Rock Against Racism movement, played benefit concerts for anti-racist and anti-nuclear organizations, and also supported the 1978 Right to Work march to protest unemployment. “Our government leaders are not interested in how people feel,” Hall told the New York Times. “If they were, they’d just resign because they’re not helping anyone. The children cannot go to the Prime Minister and say, ‘We are unemployed, what are you going to do to help us?’ There’s no way they can approach people that way. So they express themselves by breaking things.”

Following the success of Ghost Town in 1981, the band broke up acrimoniously in July. “It felt like the perfect time to stop the Specials part one,” Hall said. “We had gone from seven kids in the back of a van to gold discs and I was never really comfortable with that.

Fun Boy Three pictured in 1983.
Chart success…Fun Boy Three in 1983. Photo: Steve Rapport/Getty Images

Hall formed Fun Boy Three with his Specials bandmates Staple and Lynval Golding. They also enjoyed several years of chart success, collaborating twice with girl band Bananarama, on It Ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It) and Really Saying Something. Hall would also land a Top 10 single with Our Lips Are Sealed, a song he co-wrote with American indie star – and then romantic partner – Jane Wiedlin for her band the Go-Go’s.

Hall would form another band in 1984, The Colourfield, who scored a hit with Thinking of You. He became a frequent collaborator over the following decades, working with the likes of Ian Broudie of Lightning Seeds, American actress Blair Booth, Toots and the Maytals, Lily Allen, Damon Albarn of Blur – and later his band Gorillaz – and Dave Stewart from Eurythmics. with whom he formed a duo known as Vegas in 1992.

Hall was not part of a Specials reunion, the Specials Mk 2, which lasted from 1993 to 1998. In 1994 he released his debut solo album, Home, produced by Broudie; a sequel, Laugh, came in 1997.

In 2008, inspired by the Pixies’ 2004 reunion, Hall announced that he would be reforming the Specials for a tour and new music, albeit without founding member Jerry Dammers, who claimed he had been forced to leave. “The Specials were this big hole that took four years off my life,” Hall told the Telegraph. “I especially wanted to see these people again.”

They embarked on a 30th anniversary tour in 2009 and performed at the closing concert of the 2012 London Olympics, but faced the death of drummer John Bradbury and the departure of vocalist Staple and guitarist Roddy Radiation over the next few years.

The band would hit the headlines again in 2017, when 18-year-old Birmingham woman Saffiyah Khan was photographed facing protesters at an EDL march while wearing a Specials T-shirt. “It felt like confirmation of everything the band set out to do,” Hall said.

In 2019, they released a new album, Encore, on which Khan performed on a new song, 10 Commandments. It charted at number 1 on the UK album chart – their highest ever album placement. “Reaching a first No. 1 album in our ’60s has restored our faith in humanity,” Hall told the Quietus.

Hall was still struggling with his mental health, he admitted around this time. In 2003, he had started self-medicating with alcohol. In the last decade of his life, he sought medicine, wary of it since he was given Valium as a teenager, and began art therapy.

“It got to a point where I had no choice – and it did me so much good,” he said. “Talking about psychological problems is a conscious choice. It’s something I want to share with people.”

Hall is survived by his wife, director Lindy Heymann. They had a son; Hall has two older sons with his ex-wife, Jeanette Hall.

In 2019, Hall told Uncut magazine that he was enjoying his sixties, an age he had aspired to since he was a 27-year-old fan of musical lifers Andy Williams, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. “I feel blessed to have reached that stage,” he said. “A lot of people think 60 is part of the downward spiral, which it is if you let it, but you can fight it and say, no, it’s not — it’s just part of this story.”


The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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