Wednesday, March 17, 2010

BBC Radio 3 and World Service DJ Charlie Gillett dies

Charlie Gillett
Gillett turned down an offer to present BBC Two's The Old Grey Whistle Test

BBC Radio 3 and World Service presenter Charlie Gillett has died after a long illness, aged 68.

Known as a champion of world music, the Lancashire-born broadcaster passed away in a London hospital on Wednesday, his family has confirmed.

He contracted an autoimmune disease, and last week suffered a heart attack.

Gillett is credited with discovering Dire Straits in 1976 after playing Sultans of Swing from their demo tape on his Radio London show Honky Tonk.

'Sorely missed'

He also wrote an acclaimed history of rock'n'roll, The Sound of the City, in the 1970s.

World Service director Peter Horrocks said he was an inspiration whose spirit of adventure and passion for the rich diversity of global music opened the ears of the world.

"His broadcasts brought together music and radio fans from far flung corners of the globe," he said.

"His postbag was one of the biggest, most affectionate and diverse in Bush House, which confirmed his special place in listener's lives. He was a very special broadcaster and he will be sorely missed."

Gillett stood down from his regular slot on Radio 3's World on 3 for health reasons two months ago, with fellow presenters Lopa Kothari and Mary Ann Kennedy covering.

Charlie Gillett
Gillett was part of a panel who first coined the term "world music"

The station's controller, Roger Wright, said at the time: "Radio 3 has always valued Charlie's immense knowledge and passion for world music which has been much enjoyed by listeners."

Gillett, who was born in Morecambe and brought up in Stockton-on-Tees, Cleveland, discovered several stars of world music while on Radio London.

They include Youssou N'Dour, Salif Keita, and the young singer of Portuguese fado music, Mariza.

In the mid-70s he formed a partnership with his dentist and went on to manage Kilburn and the High Roads, whose lead singer was Ian Dury.

Notable successes on his label and publishing company, Oval Music, were Lene Lovich's Lucky Number and Paul Hardcastle's number one hit 19.

The DJ also turned down an offer to present BBC Two's live music show The Old Grey Whistle Test.

In 1979 he moved to commercial station Capital Radio, where he began to feature music from around the world. More recently he appeared on BBC London.

He was known to millions of listeners for his World Service programme Charlie Gillett's World of Music.

He is survived by his wife Buffy, their daughters Suzy and Jody, their son Ivan, and two grandchildren.