"A trailblazer, spirited, adventurous, fearless, hilarious, smart": Annie Nightingale, influential DJ, dies aged 83

Annie Nightingale
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Influential UK radio presenter Annie Nightingale has died, aged 83.

Never underestimate the role model she became. Breaking down doors by refusing to bow down to sexual prejudice and male fear

Family statement

A statement from her family said she "passed away yesterday at her home in London after a short illness".

"Annie was a pioneer, trailblazer and an inspiration to many,” the statement continues. “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."

Annie Nightingale

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Leading figures from the broadcasting and music worlds have been quick to pay tribute.

Aled Haydn Jones, current head of Radio 1, where Nightingale became the station's first female presenter in 1970, said "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.

She was an inspiration to so many women in music, broadcasting and beyond and just a lovely human being

Emily Eavis

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

Tim Davie, the BBC's Director-General said: "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."

Glastonbury co-organiser Emily Eavis spoke for many as she paid tribute to Nightingale's pioneering influence, saying: "I always felt so grateful to have such a strong woman encouraging me along the way and I’m sure she has done the same for many others like me. She was an inspiration to so many women in music, broadcasting and beyond and just a lovely human being."

Born in 1940 in Middlesex, UK, Nightingale trained as a journalist and began her media career in newspapers, before graduating to TV hosting, alongside modeling and running a chain of fashion boutiques in the ‘60s. 

Inspired by the UK’s pirate radio scene, she joined BBC Radio 1 in 1970, where she remained the station’s only female presenter until 1982, and co-hosted influential UK TV music show The Old Grey Whistle Test from 1978.

Nightingale was awarded an OBE for services to radio broadcasting in 2002 and received a CBE in 2020.

Annie Nightingale, circa 1965

(Image credit: Getty Images/Roger Viollet Collection)
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Will Groves
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