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Alex B Cann column: 'Loved the show, Steve'

Steve Wright

The world has lost a true radio great this week, with the passing of BBC Radio 2's Steve Wright at the age of just 69.

The announcement came just after five on Tuesday afternoon, and was particularly poignant, given it was World Radio Day. A few days on, I still can't believe it.

Steve was last on air on Sunday, hosting a pre-recorded special Valentine's edition of his iconic Love Songs programme, and passed away the day after it was broadcast. Whether he was live or recorded, he was a master of his craft, making every single show a fantastic listen.

He was one of the reasons I wanted to be on the radio in the first place, and when I was in Year 11, I made my one and only appearance on Radio 1 when I reached the quarter finals of Wrighty's Young DJ of the Year competition. I couldn't believe it when I woke up to hear my demo tape being played out by one of my radio icons, and he even said nice things about it (although I'm fairly sure it was rubbish!).

Steve always struck me as someone who lived and breathed radio. Whilst I was never fortunate enough to meet him in person, it feels like I've lost a friend. This is the magic of radio, and I guess explains my tears when I heard the news of his death. For a generation who grew up listening to him on Radio 1 and Radio 2, he was always there in the background. He was also an accomplished TV presenter, hosting countless episodes of Top of the Pops, which you'll often see repeated on BBC Four. He even released several pop singles, as well as bringing the 'zoo format' to the UK with his zany brand of humour on air and numerous characters.

I've heard many stories of how he got into the Radio 2 building hours before his show, and spent much of the day making sure his show was as good as it could be. His work ethic was incredible, and when he signed off from his afternoon show, his closing words were poignant as Queen's Radio Ga Ga played. "We tried to make the show unique and just be good company. I can only hope we've done that some of the time".

My friend Rosie wrote on Twitter: "Such sad news, of a human who united so many. They say when someone dies, their voice is the first thing that becomes hardest to remember...this could never be the case with Steve Wright".

From shout-outs to factoids, from love songs to quirky news bits from the papers, Steve captured the spirit of fun on the radio that I think all of us presenters aspire to. He never took himself too seriously, especially during one of my favourite slots he did, the "Serious Jockin' (no G)". It was like nothing else on the radio, and it lifted my spirits enormously during lockdown listening to it on my walks around the block.

I'm really sorry we won't get to hear more of him hosting Pick of the Pops, which he seemed to be really enjoying. Tributes have poured in since his death, with Matt Lucas writing: "Steve Wright was the most brilliant radio broadcaster of them all. So gifted and natural and engaging. It was always a pleasure and an honour to appear on his show. What a huge loss". Russell Grant writes: "He was a generous, wonderful presenter, and gentleman. He was the most inventive, cleverest of radio broadcasters. Steve is unmatched. A legend has left us". I can't argue with that.

Even when Steve's afternoon show came to an end after many years due to a schedule change by the management at Radio 2, his professionalism shone through, and I was so pleased when he was awarded an MBE recently. The outpouring of love on social media has been immense in recent days and I can only hope he knew how much he was loved by the nation, and how many lives he made better. His shows were balm for the soul.

It's also a timely reminder of the power of words, and radio, to uplift, during good times and bad. There really is no medium like it, and it will never quite be the same again without a Steve Wright piece of music up to the news. Sleep well, Steve. Loved the show.

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