Terry Hall: is cause of death known, what did The Specials singer die of - Horace Panter details what happened

‘The world has lost a unique voice and I have lost a good friend,’ says Horace Panter on the loss of The Specials bandmate Terry Hall

The Specials frontman Terry Hall has died at the age of 63 (Photo: PA)The Specials frontman Terry Hall has died at the age of 63 (Photo: PA)
The Specials frontman Terry Hall has died at the age of 63 (Photo: PA)

The Specials frontman Terry Hall has died at the age of 63 after a “brief illness”, the band has announced.

The Coventry-born singer-songwriter rose to fame as part of the band, who were pioneers of the ska scene in the UK.

A statement released on the band’s official Twitter account on Monday (19 December) said: “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.

“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.

“He will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him and leaves behind the gift of his remarkable music and profound humanity. 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.”

The Specials bandmate Horace Panter has opened up on the days leading up to Hall’s death and revealed the band were working on new material when their frontman fell ill.

The Specials frontman Terry Hall has died at the age of 63 (Photo: PA)The Specials frontman Terry Hall has died at the age of 63 (Photo: PA)
The Specials frontman Terry Hall has died at the age of 63 (Photo: PA)

Terry Hall: is cause of death known?

In a statement posted on Facebook, Panter revealed that Hall had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the months prior to his death.

Hall had been taken to hospital in September around the time The Specials were planning to record a new reggae album. Panter said Hall had “the framework for 8 tunes... confidence was high” before he fell ill with what he described initially as a “stomach bug”.

It was early October when Panter received a phone call from the band’s manager Steve Blackwell. Blackwell shared the news that Hall had been diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, and it had spread to his liver.

Panter writes: “This is serious. Like life-threatening serious. He has developed diabetes due to his pancreas being attacked. This has to be treated first, then it’s a regime of chemotherapy. There is nothing anyone can do. Everything is put on hold. Terry is emphatic that no-one be told about this. If anyone asks, he’s managing his diabetes.

“The chemo treatment starts favourably but it seems that it would be March 2023 at the earliest before we’d be in any position to work. He is in and out of hospital to stabilise the diabetes issue and also to manage pain. It then goes quiet.”

In early December, Panter adds, Hall had lost a lot of weight and looked “frail”. Ian Broudie of the Lightning Seeds visited Hall in hospital soon after and told Blackwell he was worried Hall was “slipping away”.

Blackwell then went to visit Hall on 15 December. Panter writes: “He (Blackwell) calls me on his return journey and says things are not looking promising. Terry is dying. The next day he is put on morphine and is more-or-less unconscious for most of the time. I thought it would be best for me to go and visit but Lindy, his wife, advises against it.

“She has held her phone to Terry’s ear so that his sisters and Lynval can say their goodbyes. She suggests I do the same. So, I did. It was tough. Terry died around half past 5 the next evening, Sunday 18th December. The world has lost a unique voice and I have lost a good friend.”

Neville Staple leads tributes to Terry Hall

Bandmate Neville Staple led the tributes to Hall, writing on Twitter that he was “deeply saddened” to hear about his death. He said: “We knew Terry had been unwell but didn’t realise how serious until recently. We had only just confirmed some 2023 joint music agreements together. This has hit me hard.”

He added: “In the music World, people have many ups and downs, but I will hang onto the great memories of Terry and I, making history fronting The Specials and Fun Boy three together. Rest easy Terry Hall.”

Fellow musicians responded to the sad news on Twitter to pay tribute to Hall, including singer-songwriter Elvis Costello who described the frontman’s voice as the “perfect instrument”.

He wrote: “Sad to receive the news of Terry Hall’s passing last night from Lynval Golding. Terry’s voice was the perfect instrument for the true and necessary songs on “The Specials”. That honesty is heard in so many of his songs in joy and sorrow. My condolences to his family and friends.”

Punk and folk singer Frank Turner also expressed his sadness at the news and said The Specials were one of the “most important” figures of his childhood. He wrote on Twitter: “God damnit. Just heard the news about Terry Hall. What an absolute sadness. The Specials were one of the most important bands for me as a kid. Taught me many things I needed to know. Gutted. RIP.”

Jane Weildan, co-founder of The Go Go’s described Hall as a “talented and unique person” and explained how after the pair had written a song together after a brief romance. She wrote: “Gutted to hear of the passing of #terryhall. He was a lovely, sensitive, talented and unique person. 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.”

Elsewhere, Culture Club frontman Boy George described it as a “sad day” after hearing the news, tweeting: “Very sad to hear about Terry Hall! Absolutely loved him as an artist.”

The Specials were pioneers of the ska scene in the UK (Photo: 3rd Party)The Specials were pioneers of the ska scene in the UK (Photo: 3rd Party)
The Specials were pioneers of the ska scene in the UK (Photo: 3rd Party)

The Specials’ music legacy

The Specials were formed in Hall’s home city of Coventry in 1977, by Jerry Dammers, Lynval Golding and Horace Panter. Hall joined alongside Staple, Roddy Byers and John Bradbury a year later.

The band were originally called The Automatics, before changing their name to The Coventry Automatics, The Specials AKA The Automatics and finally, in 1978, settling on The Specials.

The band made a name with their ska and rocksteady style, and for providing a musical backdrop to economic recession, urban decay and societal fracture in the early 1980s.

The band produced a string of hit records including A Message To You, Rudy, Rat Race and Ghost Town, which reached number one, before splitting in 1981. After this, Hall, Golding and Staple went on to form Fun Boy Three, while Dammers and Bradbury released an album under the moniker The Special AKA, which spawned the hit single Free Nelson Mandela in 1984.

Fun Boy Three achieved four UK top 10 singles during their time together, until Hall left the band in 1983 to form The Colourfield with ex-Swinging Cats members Toby Lyons and Karl Shale.

After pursuing various solo and collaborative projects it was announced in 2008 that The Specials would be reforming for several tour dates and potential new music. In September that year, Hall and five members of the band performed at Bestival music festival under the name Very “Special” Guests. In 2009 he reflected on the performance, saying: “Bestival was a trial run. We did an unannounced slot so we could just could turn up, nameless. It was perfect.”

The Specials later embarked on a 2009 tour to celebrate their 30th anniversary and in 2018 supported The Rolling Stones during a concert at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena. In February 2019, the band released Encore - their first album of new material in 37 years.

Upon release, the album went straight to number one on the Official UK Album Chart, marking their first number one album, and the first time they had topped the charts since their classic track Ghost Town in 1981 and since their single Too Much Too Young became a number one in 1980.

The album’s lead single, the politically-themed Vote For Me, was considered by some fans as a follow-on from Ghost Town, which was hailed as a piece of popular social commentary having been released during the riots across England in 1981.

Hall told The Big Issue magazine in 2019: “I find myself in awe of the mess, nightly listening to politicians giving their opinion and thinking, I don’t necessarily trust any of you, really. It is pretty sad. I grew up aligned to a party, the Labour Party, quite strongly. Until Tony Blair made Noel Gallagher prime minister I knew exactly where I stood.”

Related topics: