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Steve Wright: BBC Radio 2 presenter dies aged 69

DJ Steve Wright, who presented programmes for BBC Radio 1 and Radio 2 for more than four decades, has died at the age of 69.

His family confirmed his death “with deep sorrow and profound regret” in a statement on Tuesday.

Wright joined the BBC in the 1970s and went on to host the afternoon shows on Radio 1 and Radio 2.

He also fronted television programmes for the BBC, including Top of the Pops.

Wright was last on air on Sunday, hosting a pre-recorded special Valentine’s Day edition of his Love Songs programme. He passed away on Monday.

Paying tribute to Wright on Radio 2 after his death was announced, an emotional Sara Cox said: “It’s really hard to know what to say about the news of Steve Wright’s passing, except we are all shocked and devastated and blindsided by this news.

“Steve was an extraordinary broadcaster, a really kind person, he was witty, he was warm, and he was a huge, huge part of the Radio 2 family, and I know my fellow DJs will all be absolutely shattered too.”

Fellow Radio 2 presenter Jo Whiley began her programme with a tribute to Wright, saying it felt “very strange” to be doing a tribute show.

“It’s extremely hard to know what to say and to be talking about someone that you saw only days ago in this very studio where I am right now – doing a tribute show to that person just does not feel right,” she told her listeners. caption,

Sara Cox “devastated” by news of Steve Wright’s death

Born in Greenwich, south London, in 1954, Wright’s career at the BBC began when he started working as a clerk. His broadcasting career was launched in 1976, when Wright left the BBC to join Radio 210 in Reading.

Four years later, he joined BBC Radio 1, presenting weekend programmes before launching Steve Wright in the Afternoon in 1981 – the show that would ultimately define his career.

After a brief stint hosting the Radio 1 breakfast show for a year from 1994, Wright left to join Talk Radio, but rejoined the BBC in 1996.

He began presenting a Saturday programme and Sunday Love Songs on Radio 2 from 1996, before relaunching his afternoon show in 1999, a slot he would keep until 2022.

The show had its own distinctive zoo format, featuring contributions from Wright’s on-air “posse”, as well as celebrity interviews and entertaining trivia featured in his Factoids segment.

Scott Mills took over the afternoon programme during a string of schedule changes at the station in 2022, but Wright stayed with Radio 2, continuing to present Sunday Love Songs as well as a series of specials and podcasts.

File photo dated 18/03/02 of Radio DJ's Tony Blackburn (left), Steve Wright and Paul Gambaccini during the Sony Radio Awards launch party at the Commonwealth Club in London.
Image caption,Tony Blackburn (pictured with Wright and Paul Gambaccini in 2002) described the afternoon host as a “great broadcaster”

Last October, he took over from Paul Gambaccini as presenter of the station’s Saturday afternoon staple Pick Of The Pops.

Wright was honoured for his services to radio in the December 2023 New Year Honours list and said he wanted to dedicate it “to all the people in broadcasting who gave comfort and public service during the pandemic”.

Radio 2 said it planned to celebrate Wright’s life with a range of programming across the station.

Presenter Jeremy Vine told BBC News: “It’s come as a complete shock to us. The Radio 2 family are in mourning. The thing about Steve is that he was 69 when he died, but he still sounded like he did when he was 30. He was such an incredible professional… a lovely man.

“He was so encouraging to the next generation of presenters like me. He was so generous with his time. He was such a huge figure in British radio. That cheerful voice is gone, and there are so many people who will feel his loss.”

The station’s boss Helen Thomas said: “Steve understood the connection and companionship that radio engenders better than anyone, and we all loved him for it. He was a consummate professional whose attention to detail was always second to none.”

Picture shows Disc Jockey DJ Steve Wright presenting with members of the studio audience on Top of the Pops
Image caption,Wright also presented TV programmes for the BBC (pictured hosting Top of the Pops in 1982)

Fellow Radio 2 DJ Tony Blackburn posted on social media: “I am so sad that my dear friend Steve Wright has passed away. He was a great broadcaster and we just loved one another’s company. I was shocked at the news and will miss him terribly.”

In an Instagram video, Gambaccini described Wright as “one of the all-time greats”, while Jonathan Ross said he was “warm, generous and great to spend time with”.

Former Radio 2 drivetime host Simon Mayo said it was “awful news”, describing Wright as “one of the greats”.

Jo Whiley, who also presented on Radio 1 and Radio 2 during Wright’s respective tenures, said she was “so utterly devastated” to hear of his death.

“He was a class act,” she wrote. “An utter perfectionist when it came to radio. No-one cared more about the quality of what came out of your speakers than Wrighty. But he was also extraordinarily kind and big-hearted.

“We saw each other a lot doing our shows during the pandemic and I loved the banter we had. He was a huge fan of new music and he loved a gossip. When I joined Radio 2 he took the time to come into the studio and was never anything less than encouraging and supportive over the years.”

Former Radio 2 DJ Ken Bruce said he was “totally shocked to hear the news about the great Steve Wright”.

“We were planning lunch to celebrate the award of his richly deserved MBE,” Bruce said. “An outstanding and innovative broadcaster whose listeners loved him. What a loss to the world of radio.”

The station’s current breakfast show host Zoe Ball said Wright was “our radio friend, our inspiration, master of broadcasting, the Godfather, always there for us all with support, advice, love & most importantly laughter”.

“Rest well you wonderful magic man,” she added. “Life won’t be the same without you here.”

Scott Mills, who took over the afternoon slot from Wright, posted: “He made everything sound effortless, and worked so hard to make every show world class. He was a constant inspiration to me on how to do radio that sounded big.”

Steve Wright in radio studio
Image caption,Wright was one of the BBC’s longest-serving DJs

Dame Esther Rantzen, who was interviewed by Steve Wright on many occasions, said he was a unique broadcaster.

“He created a kind of club which, whether he was interviewing you or whether you were enjoying it as a listener, you looked forward to joining every day,” she told the PA news agency.

“It is a very rare quality, and he made it sound easy. It was frequently very funny, and when he left his daily afternoon show he really knocked a hole in the day for many of us who relied on his company.”

And Radio 2 presenter Rylan Clark posted: “I’m so saddened and in complete shock that we have lost this wonderful man. Steve always was so amazing when I started at Radio 2 and always went out of his way to make me feel welcome.

“He will be so missed, none more so than by [my mum] Linda who always reminded me that he was, is and always will be her favourite.”

In a statement, his family said: “It is with deep sorrow and profound regret that we announce the passing of our beloved Steve Wright.

“In addition to his son, Tom, and daughter, Lucy, Steve leaves behind his brother, Laurence and his father Richard. Also, much-loved close friends and colleagues, and millions of devoted radio listeners who had the good fortune and great pleasure of allowing Steve into their daily lives as one of the UK’s most enduring and popular radio personalities.”

BBC director general Tim Davie said: “All of us at the BBC are heartbroken to hear this terribly sad news. Steve was a truly wonderful broadcaster who has been a huge part of so many of our lives over many decades.

“He was the ultimate professional – passionate about the craft of radio and deeply in touch with his listeners. This was deservedly recognised in the New Year Honours list with his MBE for services to radio.

“No-one had more energy to deliver shows that put a smile on audiences’ faces. They loved him deeply. We are thinking of Steve and his family and will miss him terribly.”

As Wright bade farewell after 23 years on his popular show in 2022, he played listeners out to Queen’s Radio Ga Ga.

Signing off, he told listeners: “We’ve tried on this programme to bring just a little bit of light relief, a good genuine atmosphere, uplifting tunes, good conversation, a little bit of satire.

“We tried to make the show unique and just be good company. I can only hope we’ve done that some of the time.”

He added: “Most of all, I want to say thank you to you, for your appreciation, our dearest listener, smashing and loyal. For all the reaction, the nice words, thank you if you’ve ever seen your way to listening to us over 23 years at any time, thank you, thank you, and thank you again.”



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