Thinking of You: The Life and Times of Terry Hall

Dec 20, 2022

By Matthew Berlyant

On December 18th, 2022, Terence Edward Hall (known to the world as Terry Hall) passed away at the age of 63 after a short illness. No cause of death has been announced. Hall started his career at the age of 19 as the vocalist of the iconic Coventry, UK-based 2 Tone band The Specials . 2 Tone was also the name of the label started by keyboardist, artist, and Specials songwriter Jerry Dammers, and the band’s first single, “Gangsters,” was released in 1979. Hall’s career was not just limited to that great and important band, but continued to the present day in a variety of guises.

After two incredible albums with The Specials (1979’s The Specials and 1980’s aptly titled More Specials) and a slew of great singles (seven of which reached the UK Top 40, including the immortal UK #1 “Ghost Town”) he and fellow vocalists Lynval Golding and Neville Staple left the band in 1981 to form Fun Boy Three. The band recorded two albums between 1981 and 1983 and scored seven more Top 30 UK singles, including collaborations with Bananarama (a cover of The Velvelettes’ “Really Saying Something” and “It Ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way You Do It)”) and Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Gos (former UK touring partners of The Specials who also guested on More Specials). Wiedlin co-wrote The Go-Gos’ “Our Lips are Sealed” with Hall about their brief romance on said tour. Fun Boy Three’s version of “Our Lips are Sealed” also appeared on their David Byrne-produced second album, Waiting, in 1983.

After the breakup of Fun Boy Three, Hall formed The Colourfield in 1984. Their biggest hit was the UK #11 “Thinking of You” from their 1985 debut LP, Virgins and Philistines, which featured a variety of collaborators that included the late, great Echo and the Bunnymen drummer Pete de Freitas. After a second Colourfield LP (1987’s Deception), Hall formed the trio Terry, Blair, and Anouchka with actress Blair Booth and jeweler Anouchka Grose, releasing an album in 1990 entitled Ultra Modern Nursery Rhymes.

Hall later teamed up with Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart in 1992 as the duo Vegas, releasing a self-titled album in 1992. He started his solo career with 1994’s Home, which featured original Echo and the Bunnymen bassist Les Pattinson and former collaborator Ian Broudie of The Lightning Seeds and features songs co-written with Andy Partridge, Craig Gannon, Broudie, and Nick Heyward. Hall later released 1997’s Laugh and collaborated with Mush-Taq of the hip-hop group Fun-Da-Mental on 2003’s The Hour of Two Lights. He has also collaborated with Tricky, Stephen Duffy, Gorillaz (who were clearly influenced by The Specials), Tricky, and has also appeared on stage with The Ordinary Boys.

In 2009, The Specials reunited with Hall and most of its original members (sans Dammers) to wide acclaim, playing late-night talk shows and undertaking international tours. In 2019, the band released the widely acclaimed UK #1 Encore, their 1st release with Hall since the “Ghost Town” single in 1981, and followed it up in 2021 with Protest Songs 1924-2012.

Working in a wide variety of styles and over the course of more than 40 years, Hall was one of the voices of British music for almost half a century, helping an entire generation through the racial tension, economic stagnation, and strife of late ’70s and ’80s Thatcher-led Britain, while making incredible, timeless, forward-thinking music that fans of ska, punk, New Wave, electronic music, and other styles have enjoyed and cherished and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future.

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