Annie Nightingale: Legendary Radio 1 DJ dies at 83

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Nightingale’s family described her as “a pioneer, trailblazer and an inspiration to many”
By Ian Youngs & Noor Nanji
BBC News

Radio 1 DJ Annie Nightingale, the station’s first female presenter, who went on to become its longest-serving host, has died at the age of 83.

Nightingale joined the station in 1970 and remained the only woman on the line-up for 12 years.

She was known for her passion for a wide range of music, championing everything from prog rock and punk to acid house and grime.

She remained on air until late last year with Annie Nightingale Presents.

Nightingale was also known for co-hosting BBC Two music show The Old Grey Whistle Test.

Tributes have been flooding in for Nightingale, with the DJ Annie Mac saying she was “a trailblazer, spirited, adventurous, fearless, hilarious, smart, and so good at her job”.

In a statement on Instagram, she added: “This is the woman who changed the face and sound of British TV and radio broadcasting forever. You can’t underestimate it.”

BBC Radio 2 presenter Zoe Ball said she was “heartbroken” at the news, adding: “She loved music like no other, she sought out the tunes and artists that shaped our lives, she interviewed them all, opening doors for musicians, DJs and broadcasters alike.”

Tim Davie, director-general of the BBC, called Nightingale a “uniquely gifted broadcaster”.

He continued: “As well as being a trailblazer for new music, she was a champion for female broadcasters, supporting and encouraging other women to enter the industry. We will all miss her terribly.”

Annie Nightingale in the BBC Radio 1 studio in 1976

A statement attributed to her family on Friday said she “passed away yesterday at her home in London after a short illness”.

“Annie was a pioneer, trailblazer and an inspiration to many. Her impulse to share that enthusiasm with audiences remained undimmed after six decades of broadcasting on BBC TV and radio globally.

“Never underestimate the role model she became. Breaking down doors by refusing to bow down to sexual prejudice and male fear gave encouragement to generations of young women who, like Annie, only wanted to tell you about an amazing tune they had just heard.

“Watching Annie do this on television in the 1970s, most famously as a presenter on the BBC music show The Old Grey Whistle Test, or hearing her play the latest breakbeat techno on Radio One is testimony to someone who never stopped believing in the magic of rock ‘n’ roll.”

They added that a celebration of her life would take place at a memorial service in the spring.

‘A pioneer for women’

Nightingale famously presented Radio 1’s Request Show in the 1970s, 80s and 90s before moving to an overnight slot. She also hosted occasional shows on Radio 2, 5 Live and 6 Music, as well as a range of documentaries.

“Every week, in my job, is a new adventure. I enjoy it,” she said last July. “People don’t understand. Most people get bored with pop music when they’re a certain age. I go on being interested in where it’s going, the twists and turns.”

The DJ helped launch the careers of numerous artists and was cited as a trailblazer by fellow DJs including Lauren Laverne, Jo Whiley, Zoe Ball and Annie Mac.

Radio 1’s current boss Aled Haydn Jones said in a statement: “All of us at Radio 1 are devastated to lose Annie, our thoughts are with her family and friends.

“Annie was a world class DJ, broadcaster and journalist, and throughout her entire career was a champion of new music and new artists.

“She was the first female DJ on Radio 1 and over her 50 years on the station was a pioneer for women in the industry and in dance music.

“We have lost a broadcasting legend and, thanks to Annie, things will never be the same.”

Tributes have been paid to Nightingale from across the music industry, with Jo Whiley, the Radio 2 presenter, writing on Instagram: “My hero. My inspiration. Thank you for it all Annie.”

Glastonbury Festival co-organiser Emily Eavis saying she had been “an inspiration to so many women in music” and a “lovely human being”.

In a post on Instagram, she said: “Goodbye dear Annie, a female trailblazer and true enthusiast.”

Meanwhile, Radio 1 presenter Greg James wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that Nightingale’s life and achievements had been “so extraordinary you couldn’t possibly sum them up on here”.

Nightingale was last on air with a three-part “best of 2023” show on 19 December.

After playing tracks by Dimitri Vegas, Daft Punk, Sam Smith and Bad Bunny she signed off by wishing listeners “a brilliant Christmas”.

Her final words on Radio 1 were, appropriately, “lots of love, from me to you”.

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