The Specials were about to record a new album this fall before vocalist Terry Hall was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, according to a Facebook post from the legendary ska group’s bassist Horace Panter. Hall died Sunday (Dec. 15) at the age of 63.
Panter says the project was meant to be “a reggae album” and had been in the works since 2020. The Specials intended to record in Los Angeles last month with co-producer Roger Rivas of the Aggrolites, and per Panter, artist Shepard Fairey had already signed on to create the album cover. Hall “had the framework for eight songs,” which would feature longtime touring member Nikolaj Torp Larsen and guitarist Lynval Golding, who himself was “still recovering” from spinal surgery earlier this year.
The album would have been the follow-up to 2019’s Encore, which hit No. 1 in the U.K. and was Hall’s first full-length with the Specials since 1981.
“This was in September,” Panter wrote. “Terry e-mails everyone and says he’s in bed with a stomach bug and can’t do the first week of pre-production sessions. No big deal, we can knock everything back a week. We’re not due to fly out until November 4th. The next week, Terry is no better and is in hospital. There’s not much we can do except wait for him to get better. Sunday October 2nd and I get a phone call from manager Steve.
“And everything turns to shit. Terry’s illness is a lot worse than we thought. He has been diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas which has spread to his liver. This is serious. Like life-threatening serious. 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.
“The chemo treatment starts favorably but it seems that it would be March 2023 at the earliest before we’d be in any position to work. He is in and out of hospital to stabilize the diabetes issue and also to manage pain. It then goes quiet. Beginning of December and reports are not good. Terry has lost a lot of weight and is very frail. His friend Ian Broudie visits and phones manager Steve. He fears that Terry is slipping away.
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. 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. 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.”