John ‘Brad’ Bradbury dies at 62; drummer was a key player in ska-reggae band the Specials

John “Brad” Bradbury plays with the Specials at Coachella in 2010.
John “Brad” Bradbury plays with the Specials at Coachella in 2010.
(Michael Buckner / Getty Images)
Associated Press

Drummer John “Brad” Bradbury, an integral part of the Specials’ unique ska and reggae sound for many years, has died at the age of 62.

Bradbury’s family and the band announced his death Tuesday. A family statement said he died Monday but did not provide the cause of death. A representative for the band said he died in England.

“Brad’s drumming was the powerhouse behind The Specials and it was seen as a key part to the Two Tone sound,” the family statement said. “He was much respected in the world of drumming and his style of reggae and ska was seen as genuinely groundbreaking when The Specials first hit the charts in 1979.”


The Specials’ Twitter site said: “It is with deep regret that we say goodbye to our great friend, the world’s greatest drummer, our beloved Brad. RIP.”

Bradbury was born in Coventry, the band’s home base 95 miles northwest of London, joining the group in 1979 after the original drummer left. He was made a permanent member after playing at the recording session for the single “Gangsters.”

The band shot to popularity as part of the ska revival and found a wide following for political songs like “War Crimes” and “Free Nelson Mandela.”

Bradbury stayed with the band through a number of personnel changes until it disbanded in 1984. It regrouped for a 2009 reunion tour followed by other gigs.

He told the Guardian newspaper, “I’ve never had so much fun as I’ve been having since the Specials re-formed.”

Bradbury later likened playing onstage with the band to having a “ringside seat to the mayhem.”