Terry Hall, singer with ska band The Specials, dies aged 63

LONDON (Reuters) – Terry Hall, lead singer of British ska band The Specials, whose often politically charged hits in the late 1970s and early 1980s included “Gangsters” and “Ghost Town”, has died aged 63, his former band members 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,” they said on Twitter.

Hall joined the band in 1977 in his central English home city of Coventry. With its mix of black and white members and its Jamaican-inspired sound, they became a symbol of Britain’s new multicultural identity at a time of racial tensions.

“The Specials were a celebration of how British culture was invigorated by Caribbean immigration,” singer Billy Bragg, part of the same wave of performers, tweeted in response to the news.

“But the onstage demeanour of their lead singer was a reminder that they were in the serious business of challenging our perception of who we were in the late 1970s.”

Hall was famous for his deadpan delivery, staring expressionless into the television cameras as he sang, while the rest of the band leapt about behind him, dressed in their trade-mark suits, pork-pie hats and loafer shoes.

Their song “Too Much Too Young,” a critique of teenage pregnancy, reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart in 1980, and they repeated the feat in 1981 with “Ghost Town,” a protest against urban decay under the government of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Hall left the band in 1981 to set up another group, Fun Boy Three, with two other former Specials members. He rejoined The Specials — also known as The Special AKA — and performed with them as recently as this year.

(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)