The Specials frontman Terry Hall died after a battle with pancreatic cancer, according to a new Facebook post from the seminal British ska outfit’s bassist Horace Panter.
In a note on Facebook, Panter explained how quickly Hall’s health deteriorated over just a few months this fall. His diagnosis also came just as the Specials were gearing up to to record the reggae album they’d originally planned to cut in 2020 before the pandemic.
According to Panter, the plan was to record the LP in Los Angeles in November. They’d booked Roger Rivas as a co-producer and tapped Shepard Fairey to do the cover art. Guitarist Lynval Golding was “raring to go” even as he continued to recover from spinal surgery, and Hall “had the framework for 8 tunes.”
“Confidence was high,” Panter added.
Then in September, Hall sent an email to the band saying he was “in bed with a stomach bug” and would have to miss the first week of pre-production sessions. A week later, Hall was in the hospital. On Oct. 2, Hall got a call from the Specials’ manager, Steve Blackwell, who broke the news that Hall had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and that it had already spread to his liver.
“This is serious. Like life-threatening serious,” Panter wrote. “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.”
Panter said Hall’s chemo treatments started well, noting the singer was in and out of the hospital “to stabilize the diabetes issue and also to manage pain.” For a brief moment it seemed like the Specials might be able to reconvene in the studio in March 2023. But by early December, Hall’s health had taken a turn for the worse.
Panter said he received a call from Blackwell on Dec. 15 saying “things are not looking promising. Terry is dying.” He continued, “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.”
Hall died the next day, Dec. 18. “The world has lost a unique voice and I have lost a good friend,” Panter wrote.
The Specials released an album of covers, Protest Songs 1924 – 2012, last October. Their final album of all new material with Hall, Encore, arrived in 2019.