The Specials’ frontman Terry Hall had been diagnosed with cancer shortly before his death this week at the age of 63, his bandmate has confirmed.
Bassist Horace Panter gave a moving account of his friend’s final days revealing they had planned to record a new album in November before Hall was taken ill with a suspected stomach bug.
It later transpired to be pancreatic cancer, which had spread to his liver.
Initial treatment went well, but Hall began to fade in December, Panter said.
“Reports are not good,” he wrote. “Terry has lost a lot of weight and is very frail.
“His friend Ian Broudie [of The Lightning Seeds] visits and phones manager Steve. He fears that Terry is slipping away.”
He continued: “15th December and manager Steve drives up to London to visit. He 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.”
Panter said he had planned to visit his friend in hospital, but was advised not to by Hall’s wife Lindy, who arranged a phone call to say goodbye.
“It was tough,” Panter said. “Terry died around half past five the next evening, Sunday 18th December.
“The world has lost a unique voice and I have lost a good friend.”
Speaking on LBC, Barry Ashworth, frontman of Dub Pistols, added that Hall’s last words had been “Love, love, love” – the same phrase he often used to close shows.
“Never forget it,” Ashworth told presenter Andrew Marr, adding: “I’ve lost one of my heroes, but I’ve lost one of my dearest, dearest, dearest friends.”
Tributes to Hall, who also fronted bands including Fun Boy Three and The Colourfield, poured in from across the music world on Tuesday, with friends and colleagues remembering his warmth and dry humour, as much as his music.
Pogues frontman MacGowan wrote that he was “really [expletive] sad to hear about Terry Hall”, adding: “He was a great guy and I am praying for his family and friends @thespecials.”
Stone Roses singer Ian Brown called the musician “a musical pioneer, a true original, one of the great frontmen, an inspiration and a lovely fella”.
Blur’s Damon Albarn, who has often described Hall as an inspiration, posted a moving piano cover of The Specials’ Friday Night, Sunday Morning to social media, accompanied by the caption: “Terry, you meant the world to me. I love you.”
Madness, who were also at the forefront of the 80s ska movement, shared a black and white picture of Hall on Twitter, writing: “A terrible loss to all of us, way too young, RIP Terry Hall.”
And Billy Bragg recalled: “The Specials were a celebration of how British culture was invigorated by Caribbean immigration 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.”
The Specials were formed in Hall’s home city of Coventry in 1977 by Jerry Dammers, Lynval Golding and Horace Panter – with Hall, Neville Staple, Roddy Byers and John Bradbury joining a year later.
They scored seven consecutive top 10 hits with tracks like Gangsters, A Message To You Rudy, Too Much, Too Young and Ghost Town before Hall left to form Fun Boy Three in 1981.
He rejoined the band for a reunion tour in 2008; and they scored their first ever number one album with 2019’s Encore.
The band announced his death following a “brief illness” on Monday night.
In a statement, they asked for privacy, adding: “He will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him and leaves behind the gift of his remarkable music and profound humanity.”