Lynden David Hall, singer, songwriter and instrumentalist: born London 7 May 1974; married; died London 14 February 2006.
The singer and songwriter Lynden David Hall, best known for his 1998 single "Sexy Cinderella", was among the soul acts who put a British twist on what is originally an African-American genre and earned respect and recognition in the United States.
Hall emerged in the second half of the Nineties and found himself part of the Nu-Soul movement. Far from being a mere interpreter like so many current R&B stars, he wrote all the material and played most of the instruments on his superb début album Medicine 4 My Pain (1997), which sold 100,000 copies. The American producer Bob Power, who had worked with Erykah Badu, D'Angelo and the Roots, recorded, mixed and co-produced several of the tracks with Hall.
Hailed in 2000 as "the future of British soul" by The Independent and compared to superstars like Marvin Gaye and Al Green for his handsome looks, lithe physique and soulful voice, Hall was nominated in the Best Male Singer category of the Brit Awards in 1999 and won a Mobo Award for Best Newcomer in 1998. However, when his follow-up album, The Other Side (2000), failed to live up to expectations, Hall found himself out of contract. Despite being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, he soldiered on and last year released a third album, In Between Jobs, on Random Records.
Lynden David Hall was born in Wandsworth, south London, in 1974. His parents split up when he was five and he lost touch with his father for a while. As a teenager, he went through a rebellious phase and was expelled from school for fighting when he was 14. "It was all about just wanting to be real and about how I dealt with being a black man in London," he said, talking about "Livin' the Lie", one of the tracks he wrote about his bad-boy experiences:
When I was 14 or 15, I know I felt very lost and that all there was to do was to roam the streets. There was nowhere to go to channel everything that I had to see or feel. But I just sat there and
experienced some things that helped me to stay together. Music came into my life.
Hall went to live with his father and began listening intently to all the soul greats in his dad's record collection, artists such as Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone, the Ohio Players and the Isley Brothers, a group he would later support on tour. He taught himself to play the guitar and developed a keen ear for arrangements and production which would stand him in good stead. Also influenced by Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, Hall started to compose his own songs.
At further education college in Croydon, he asked a fellow pupil, Easther Bennett, later a member of the group Eternal, to record demos of his material. "I was just writing in those days. I didn't have confidence in my vocal ability," he recalled:
Easther told me I had a good voice and should sing the songs myself . . . I was very lucky to have her rehearse my material but she's a good church girl and didn't approve of my adult lyrics. She'd refuse to sing them, so I had to tone down some of the songs.
Hall auditioned for the British School of Performing Arts in Croydon at Bennett's behest, too. He came to the attention of the veteran manager Tony Hall (no relation). A demo tape attracted the interest of the BBC Radio 1 DJ Trevor Nelson, who signed Lynden David Hall to the EMI urban imprint Cooltempo Records which had already launched Arrested Development and Gang Starr in Britain.
First released in autumn 1997, Medicine 4 My Pain was repackaged a year later when a remix of "Sexy Cinderella" bettered the chart performances of the original version. Me' Shell Ndegéocello lent her distinctive bass playing to the track and appeared again on "Sleeping with Victor", one of two singles released from The Other Side. Hall's duet with Hinda Hicks on a cover of "Let's Do It Again", the Staples' Singers 1975 US hit, barely dented the charts in 2000 and Hall got lost in an EMI reshuffle.
He began working with Stevie Wonder's European representative Keith Harris and in 2003 was cast as the wedding singer, performing the Beatles' "All You Need is Love", in the Richard Curtis feel-good film Love Actually.
"It's the loss of a great talent, unfulfilled," said Trevor Nelson on Hall's death:
He was one of the biggest talents of his time, and ahead of his time in many ways. He was a very unassuming guy, very quiet and introverted, not your typical wannabe pop star. It's a sad day for British music but, knowing Lynden as I do, I hope the attention that this brings him will make people go and revisit his music.
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