A host of musical admirers and former bandmates gathered last night (Oct. 14) at a private Los Angeles residence to celebrate the Specials frontman Terry Hall, who died of pancreatic cancer last December at the age of 63. The benefit event featured appearances by Tom Morello, Specials members Horace Panter and Lynval Golding, the non-singing members of No Doubt (Tony Kanal, Tom Dumont, and Adrian Young), Rancid’s Tim Armstrong and Operation Ivy’s Jesse Michaels, the Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin, and members of L7 and Fishbone.
It was organized by Musack, an organization which “gives kids and teens a voice through music by providing guitars, drums and support to music teachers wherever the need arises.” Morello, who had not been announced as a performer beforehand, covered Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad” with No Doubt, while Fishbone’s Angelo Moore and Chris Dowd sang with No Doubt on “Sunday Morning.”
Armstrong and Michaels covered “Take Warning” after having performed the Specials’ “Sound System” at a similar Musack event in early 2022. Wiedlin closed the night by performing “Do the Dog” and the Go-Go’s’ “Our Lips Are Sealed,” which Hall co-wrote.
Formed in 1977, the Specials quickly broke ground with a youth-driven, never-before-heard blend of punk, Jamaican music, pop hooks, and social and political commentary. From 1979-81, the group racked up seven straight top 10 U.K. singles, including the chart-toppers “Ghost Town” and “Too Much Too Young,” plus the future classic “A Message to You Rudy.”
In the fall of 1979, the 2 Tone tour, featuring the Specials, Madness, and the Selecter, sold out venues across the U.K. the Specials’ self-titled debut album, produced by Elvis Costello, was an instant rebel-nerd touchstone. However, the original Specials lineup didn’t last long, with Hall moving on to the new group Fun Boy Three. Over time, the Specials’ influence continued to rise, particularly with third-wave ska-leaning acts such as Fishbone, No Doubt, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Sublime.
Minus Dammers, the Specials reunited for the first time in 28 years for a U.K. tour in May 2009. In April 2010, the group returned to U.S. soil for the first time in decades as part of an appearance on NBC’s Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, and also performed at the Coachella festival. As previously reported, the Specials had been planning to record their first album since 2019 last year before Hall’s health took a turn for the worse. The status of the project is unknown.