Broadcaster Annie Nightingale dies aged 83: BBC Radio 1’s first female DJ passes away at


Legendary Radio 1 DJ Annie Nightingale has died at home aged 83 after a short illness, with her family paying tribute to a ‘pioneer, trailblazer and inspiration to many’.

The broadcaster joined Radio 1 in 1970 as its first ever female DJ and went on to become its longest-serving host. Known for promoting new and underground music, she was also praised for supporting other women in a male-dominated industry.

BBC director general Tim Davie today hailed Nightingale as a ‘uniquely gifted broadcaster who blessed us with her love of music and passion for journalism for 50 years’, while Radio 1 DJ Danny Howard called her an ‘all time radio great’. 

DJ and presenter Trevor Nelson, who started his broadcasting career in the 1980s and still presents on BBC Radio 1Xtra, said Nightingale, who was twice divorced, had made him ‘feel like music broadcasting is for life’.

‘Dear Annie, you were more than just a trailblazer for women on radio, you made me feel like music broadcasting is for life. Rave in peace,’ he posted on X.

BBC Radio 2 presenter Jo Whiley, who previously had her own long-running show on Radio 1, said: ‘The coolest woman who ever graced the airwaves. She blazed a trail for us all and never compromised. Her passion for music never diminished. Annie – My utmost respect and thanks for it all.’ 

Nightingale was appointed an MBE for services to radio broadcasting in 2002, and in 2010 received a Guinness World Record as the longest serving female broadcaster at a ceremony attended by Liam Gallagher, one of her favourite musicians.

A stylish presence both on and off the screen, Nightingale was photographed alongside the likes of Kate Moss  – who attended a party to mark her 40th anniversary at Radio 1. 

Another of her confidants was Paul McCartney, who dramatically phoned her live on air to give a statement after John Lennon was assassinated in 1980. ‘Don’t wobble,’ Nightingale told herself – as she recalled in a 2020 interview

Her role saw her interview a dizzying cast of celebrities, including Sean Connery for his first role in James Bond. It would be one of the many highpoints of a career that began as a general reporter on her local paper, the  Brighton and Hove Gazette.

Legendary Radio 1 DJ Annie Nightingale has died at home aged 83, her family announced today. She is seen during a photoshoot at home - the last time she was pictured in public

Legendary Radio 1 DJ Annie Nightingale has died at home aged 83, her family announced today. She is seen during a photoshoot at home – the last time she was pictured in public 

A stylish presence both on and off the screen, Nightingale was photographed alongside the likes of Kate Moss - who attended a party to mark her 40th anniversary at Radio 1

A stylish presence both on and off the screen, Nightingale was photographed alongside the likes of Kate Moss – who attended a party to mark her 40th anniversary at Radio 1

The broadcaster posing with Paul McCartney, who once called her live on air after John Lennon's death

The broadcaster posing with Paul McCartney, who once called her live on air after John Lennon’s death 

Nightingale being handed a Guinness World Record as the longest serving female broadcaster by Liam Gallagher, one of her favourite musicians

Nightingale being handed a Guinness World Record as the longest serving female broadcaster by Liam Gallagher, one of her favourite musicians 

Nightingale reclines on her stereogram at her home in Brighton in a photo taken on December 14, 1964

Nightingale reclines on her stereogram at her home in Brighton in a photo taken on December 14, 1964

A family statement released today said: ‘Annie Nightingale MBE 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 remains 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 your 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.’ 

The statement added that a celebration of her life will be taking place in the spring at a memorial service. 

Nightingale first broadcast on the BBC in 1963 as a panellist on Juke Box Jury, before joining Radio 1 seven years later.

She remained the station’s only female DJ until 1982, when Janice Long joined, and is credited with helping to pave the way for the likes of Sara Cox, Jo Whiley and Zoe Ball.

As a DJ she has travelled the world, and once said she had been ‘mugged in Cuba, drugged in Baghdad and bugged in Russia’.

During her trailblazing career, she was the first woman to present the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test music show which aired on BBC Two and has written two autobiographical books.

The broadcaster joined Radio 1 in 1970 as its first ever female DJ and went on to become its longest-serving host

The broadcaster joined Radio 1 in 1970 as its first ever female DJ and went on to become its longest-serving host 

Nightingale with Liam Gallagher at the Gala Premiere of 'Crossfire Hurricane' during the 56th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square on October 18, 2012

Nightingale with Liam Gallagher at the Gala Premiere of ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ during the 56th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square on October 18, 2012

The broadcaster (right) at the launch of George Harrison's autobiography, 'I, Me, Mine'

The broadcaster (right) at the launch of George Harrison’s autobiography, ‘I, Me, Mine’ 

Nightingale with Don Letts at the launch of Reckless, My Life by Chrissie Hynde in London in 2015

Nightingale with Don Letts at the launch of Reckless, My Life by Chrissie Hynde in London in 2015 

Nightingale arrives for the private view of 'The Rolling Stones: Exhibitionism' at the Saatchi Gallery on April 4, 2016 in London

Nightingale arrives for the private view of ‘The Rolling Stones: Exhibitionism’ at the Saatchi Gallery on April 4, 2016 in London

The radio legend signing a copy of her 'Masterpiece' album at Fopp in London on July 17, 2015

The radio legend signing a copy of her ‘Masterpiece’ album at Fopp in London on July 17, 2015 

Nightingale posing with a BBC Radio 1 crew on January 15, 1976

Nightingale posing with a BBC Radio 1 crew on January 15, 1976 

In 2021, BBC Radio 1 launched a new scholarship for female and non-binary dance music DJs which was named after Nightingale.

Up until recently she still hosted her show Annie Nightingale presents… on BBC Radio 1.

In 2019, she was made a CBE for services to radio having previously been made an MBE in 2002.

Tim Davie said Nightingale was a ‘uniquely gifted broadcaster’ and hailed her as a ‘champion for female broadcasters’ as he paid tribute following her death aged 83.

‘I’m deeply saddened by Annie’s passing and our thoughts are with her family, many friends and the whole of Radio 1,’ he said. 

‘Annie was a uniquely gifted broadcaster who blessed us with her love of music and passion for journalism, for over 50 years. 

‘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.’

Nightingale became Radio 1's first female DJ with her show, 'What's New'

Nightingale became Radio 1’s first female DJ with her show, ‘What’s New’ 

The broadcaster in her Radio 1 studio

The broadcaster in her Radio 1 studio

Nightingale with Paul McCartney in a photograph from the Thames TV archive

Nightingale with Paul McCartney in a photograph from the Thames TV archive 

The radio star at the Brit Awards at Earls Court in 2001

The radio star at the Brit Awards at Earls Court in 2001 

Nightingale with Bob Harris on the set of the BBC2 television programme 'The Old Grey Whistle Test'

Nightingale with Bob Harris on the set of the BBC2 television programme ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’

Nightingale posing in her studio in 1970

Nightingale posing in her studio in 1970

The broadcaster seen smoking a cigarette in July 1965

The broadcaster seen smoking a cigarette in July 1965

Nightingale was Radio 1's first female DJ in February 1970 (pictured)

Nightingale was Radio 1’s first female DJ in February 1970 (pictured)

The head of BBC Radio 1, Aled Haydn Jones, also paid tribute to Nightingale, saying: ‘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.’

BBC Radio 1 DJ Danny Howard, host of Radio 1’s Dance Party, described Annie Nightingale as an ‘all time radio great’.

‘Very sad to hear the news of Annie Nightingale passing,’ he posted on X. ‘An all time radio great and an inspiration to many!

‘I was in awe of her knowledge and passion for music, the way she talked about it and the stories she had! Such a kind soul and will be missed. Thank you Annie R.I.P.’ 

The broadcaster - seen at the V&A on March 20, 2013, has been hailed as a 'pioneer, trailblazer and inspiration to many'

The broadcaster – seen at the V&A on March 20, 2013, has been hailed as a ‘pioneer, trailblazer and inspiration to many’

Nightingale in the 1960s. Paul McCartney once called her up on air to give a statement following the death of John Lennon

Nightingale in the 1960s. Paul McCartney once called her up on air to give a statement following the death of John Lennon

The legendary Radio 1 DJ in a photoshoot during the 1960s

The legendary Radio 1 DJ in a photoshoot during the 1960s  

The BBC DJ on January 15, 1976. She was at Radio 1 for more than 40 years

The BBC DJ on January 15, 1976. She was at Radio 1 for more than 40 years 



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