Arthur Gaps Hendrickson with Pauline Black
Image Credit: Dean Chalkley

Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson, frontman of 2-Tone band The Selecter, has died aged 73.

 The Coventry ska band has announced that the vocalist, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2023, had died after a short illness, via social media.

“We are devastated to confirm that Selecter frontman Arthur Gaps Hendrickson has died after a short illness,” the statement said. “The world has lost a 2-Tone original, a talented musician and an absolute gentlemen. We have lost our beloved friend and bandmate. RIP Gaps.”

Pauline Black OBE, who fronted the band with Gaps, said: “I’m too devastated to say anything coherent at the moment.”

Deep Mutual Respect

Relaying a message from Gaps Hendrickson’s family, her message said: “Gappa was actively performing with the group until he was diagnosed with cancer last year. Even then, he fought his way back from ill-health to join Jools Holland’s R & B Orchestra as a guest artist for their Autumn/Winter Tour 2023.

“Gaps was known the world over for singing the title track on The Selecter’s debut album Too Much Pressure, he brought a captivating angst and frustration to the track as he described the trials and tribulations of daily life for the working man. He will be sorely missed by all those who knew him.”

Talking with Classic Pop in 2021, Black said of Gaps: “I think we have a very deep mutual respect. We’ve known each other for more than 40 years and there’s never been a time where I’ve felt like Gaps hasn’t got my back. I very much enjoy what he brings to the party. It’s hard being out there at the front and it takes a lot of energy to buoy everybody up, but Gaps does such a splendid job. He’s from the Caribbean and his formative years were very different to mine, but put us together and you’ve got two halves that make up a wonderful whole.”

While Gaps said of his partner: “She’s one astute woman. I’ve never known anybody else quite like her. She constantly amazes me and sometimes I watch her and think: ‘Aye, Gaps you’re in good company here!’ She’s tough, but I do feel like a big brother and I always know that when I get things wrong, she can straighten it.”

Fight The Good Fight

The Selecter, initially formed by Neol Davies in 1979 and featuring Gaps and Black alongside Charley “H” Bembridge (drums), Compton Amanor (guitar), Desmond Brown (Hammond organ) and Charley Anderson (bass), released the seminal debut Too Much Pressure in February 1980. Having enjoyed chart success with On My Radio and The Selecter, the flip side to The Specials’ debut hit Gangsters, the album spawned further singles Three Minute Hero and Missing Words.

A leading light in the 2-Tone movement, alongside The Specials and The Beat, Gaps would continue to partner Black on a number of acclaimed albums released under The Selecter name including Made in Britain (2011), String Theory (2013), Subculture (2015), and Daylight (2017). Just last year, Gaps and Black celebrated the return of original drummer Bembridge with Human Algebra – a remarkable record described by Classic Pop as “a joyous album of modern ska anthems” that saw the band “continue to fight the good fight.”

Gaps, who was born in Saint Kitts, reflected with Classic Pop in 2021, “I came to England when I was 13 and I’ve seen a lot of bad things happen. To echo Bob Marley, I say: ‘He who feels it, knows it’. We challenged racism, sexism, hopelessness, and all prejudices. However, we never wanted to push things in people’s faces, we wanted them to make up their own minds. It’s an honour and a pleasure to be here talking about what we did. Pauline and I continue to tour all over the world. Everywhere we go we see different people mixing, having fun, and singing along – it’s inspiring.”

Paying Tribute

Further tributes have been paid to the singer by Rhoda Dakar, The Beat, Horace Panter and Neville Staple.

Dakar, best known as the lead singer of The Bodysnatchers,  said: “The cheeky grin. The twinkle in his eye. But also the righteous anger. The sharpest of suits. The wickedest of dance moves. Yet calm and quietly spoken. Laydeez and gennelmen Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson, whom I have known since I was 20 years old, has left the building. It hasn’t sunk in.”

The Beat posted: “RIP Gaps – spent many years on the road with you… you’ll be truly missed” a sentiment echoed by Dave Wakeling’s Beat: “We are so sorry to hear the news of Gaps Hendrickson of our 2-Tone family, may he rest in power!”

Horace Panter, of The Specials, said: “Sad to hear of the death of ‘Gappa’ Hendrickson. I always knew him as an absolute gentleman. Thinking of his family and, of course, of his musical family Pauline Black The Selecter at this sad time.”

Neville and Sugary Staple said: “Rest easy Gaps. Love and condolences to all family, friends and fans, for this very sad news of one of The Selecter icons, who will be missed by so many. Our sadness and thoughts are with you all.”

Jools Holland said: “So sad we have lost Gaps Hendrickson. One of the kindest and gentlest of men and an originator of British Ska music. He was a dear freind who will be missed by myself and all my orchestra and crew. We send love and condolences to his family.”

Classic Pop would also like to extend its condolences to Gaps Hendrickson’s family, friends and fans.

Visit The Selecter website here

Celebrating the label that morphed into a whole genre – 2 Tone Records