Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs goes on air ‘without the chief’

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Wright joined the BBC in the 1970s and went on to host the afternoon shows on Radio 1 and Radio 2
By Noor Nanji & John Hand
BBC News

Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs opened with a tribute to the BBC Radio 2 presenter, who died earlier this week.

Presenting a special episode of the show, Liza Tarbuck said the show was going on but “without the chief”.

She also read out tributes from listeners to the DJ.

Wright’s final show was last Sunday, when he hosted a pre-recorded special Valentine’s Day edition of his Love Songs programme. He passed away on Monday at the age of 69.

Wright joined the BBC in the 1970s, and went on to host the afternoon shows on Radio 1 and Radio 2 for more than four decades.

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

Sunday’s show was one of a series of BBC tributes to the beloved presenter, and featured some of his favourite tracks.

Jo Whiley hosted another tribute show to the broadcasting “legend” on Radio 2 on Tuesday evening, and said it felt “very strange” to be doing it given she had seen Wright “only days ago”.

Tarbuck opened the show with George Michael and Mary J. Blige’s song As, saying “this is Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs but without the chief, without our genius friend.”

“So while you’re getting a tissue, I think it would be lovely if you lit him a candle. I make no apologies if I get upset over the next two hours and I don’t think you should either.”

“So while you’re getting a tissue, I think it would be lovely if you lit him a candle,” said Liza Tarbuck

It was inevitable that this week’s Sunday Love Songs would be dominated by listener tributes to Wright – as he had developed the format himself as a programme where he could read out listener emails and letters exactly as they were written.

It was a show that was dear to the presenter’s heart. After his 15-year stint on Radio 1 ended, he worked in commercial radio for a short while but then joined Radio 2 as part of the weekend line-up and launched Sunday Love Songs in 1996.

When he was subsequently given the Radio 2 afternoon show – which he hosted for 23 years – he agreed a special deal that allowed him to also present Sunday Love Songs each week. And even when he was replaced by Scott Mills on the afternoon show in 2022, he again continued his Sunday stint until the day before his death.

So for the tribute show, Tarbuck read out several messages from loyal listeners who had their requests played by Wright over the years.

“Steve read out every request as if he was talking to a friend – thank you Steve. We’re going to miss you so much,” one fan wrote in.

“We listened to Steve while we were getting ready for our wedding, and amazingly we got a beautiful mention which my parents had sneakily sent in,” noted another.

“Our videographers added this sound bite to the end of a special memories reel that they’d made, so Steve is always going to be part of the ‘best day of our lives’. He created magic with his show.”

Tarbuck became emotional while reading a tribute from someone who had listened to the show for years with their husband.

“On Sunday mornings, my husband, also called Steve, would dance in the kitchen while our two daughters would cringe with embarrassment,” they wrote.

“When me and Steve were dancing in the kitchen last week – we would never have imagined that that would have been our last dance with the amazing Steve Wright. He was part of our family”.

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