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  • Writer's pictureTony Harris


There is very little I feel I can add to the tributes that have been written in the light of the sad news of the death of Terry Hall.

I have written about The Specials before in the time following the sad departure of their drummer John "JB" Bradbury and I have nothing else really to say about a band who blew in like a breath of fresh air with a style of music that was much more accessible than their punk contemporaries but had an attitude that had you quickly ditching your Abba and Bee Gee singles.

There are plenty of things for which the Specials became unwitting pioneers - they were the first mixed ethnicity band to appear on MTV with the excellent "Rat Race" - but it is perhaps nowhere more pronounced than in the innovative spirits of their founder, Jerry Dammers and their vocalist, Terry Hall. This dynamic (think Ferry and Eno in Roxy Music) would drive the band but ultimately split it up.

What makes Terry Hall so special is that he was always trying to find a new musical landscape to stand in and this makes his career one of the most interesting and why I also loved The Colourfield period of 1984-7 when he basically retired to the country, suffering, by his own admission a mental breakdown, after the split of the wonderful Fun Boy Three (two successful bands imploding in two years must have taken a toll).

He was now seeking a much gentler audio palate and started to explore a much easier listening style.

However, what makes Terry Hall so important is that he was certainly not a powerful four-octave soloist or blues wailer, but he only had to utter one line and you knew exactly who was singing. That's the mark of all great vocalists. His style was difficult to imitate because what some sore as sneering was far more plaintive and far more searching.

It's small wonder that the height of his confusion he chose to tackle one of the world's most gorgeous and enigmatic songs - which I had tucked away on a 12" single B-side - Michel Legrand's "Windmills Of Your Mind". It's not perfect by any means but it's instantly recognisable. But most importantly, you can hear him bearing his soul; it's entirely authentic and wholeheartedly sincere and that is how I shall always consider Terry Hall.

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Feb 23, 2023

'he only had to utter one line and you knew exactly who was singing...' His first line in Dream and Little Dream with someone called Salad in the 1995 charity album Help is a fine example.

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