The Specials

As the punk era faded, Coventry, England-based The Specials used its energy to reinvent old Jamaican ska in an invigorating dance style. Clad in pork pie hats and mohair suits, they used the 2 Tone name of their label to define a new music rooted in reggae yet laced with modern social commentary. In 1977, main architects Jerry Dammers, Terry Hall and Lynval Golding created an infectious sound which developed into its own youth cult with songs like “Gangsters” (1979) and “Too Much Too Young,” the lead track on their chart-topping Too Much Too Young - The Special AKA Live EP. Dammers' 1981 song “Ghost Town” defined the frustrations of a generation blighted by unemployment in the Thatcher era. The Specials released two albums – The Specials (1979) and More Specials - and had seven consecutive UK top ten hits between 1979 and 1981 before Hall, Golding, and Neville Staple split to form Fun Boy Three. Led by Dammers, The Specials – now operating under the name The Special A.K.A. - had another iconic hit in 1984 with protest anthem “Free Nelson Mandela” sung by new member Stan Campbell. The group split up after the album In The Studio (1984) although a new version of The Specials featuring vocalist Neville Staple, guitarists Roddy Byers and Lynval Golding, and bassist Horace Panter came together and released the album Today’s Specials in 1996. The group released three more albums with different lineups between 1998 and 2001, although none of them was commercially successful. After a long period of inactivity, the original lineup successfully reunited in 2008 without the involvement of Jerry Dammers. They released a new live album More... Or Less - The Specials Live before announcing the departure of singer Neville Staple due to ill health and the death of drummer John Bradbury. A tour for 2019 was revealed alongside the release of the new studio album Encore. Two years later, The Specials released the album Protest Songs 1924-2012. After a short break, the band was intending to start working together again in 2022 but plans were put on hold when Terry Hall fell ill. He died on December 18, 2022, of pancreatic cancer at the age of 63.

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