Music

Annie Nightingale, BBC Radio 1’s First Female DJ, Dies At 83

Annie Nightingale, the pioneering BBC Radio 1 DJ, has died at 83. A statement shared Friday (Jan. 12) and attributed to her family says she “passed away yesterday at her home in London after a short illness.”

Nightingale was the first female DJ on BBC Radio 1, where she started in 1970, ultimately becoming the station’s longest serving DJ. In 2010, Nightingale entered the Guinness Book of Records as the longest serving female radio presenter, a record she still holds. Her last broadcast was in late December 2023.

“Annie was a pioneer, trailblazer and an inspiration to many,” her family’s 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,” the statement went on. “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.”

BBC Radio 1 also reflected on Nightingale’s career and her impact. “Annie was a world class DJ, broadcaster and journalist, and throughout her entire career was a champion of new music and new artists,” Aled Haydn Jones, Head of BBC Radio 1, said in a statement posted to BBC Radio 1’s Instagram account. “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.”

Born near London in 1940, Nightingale began her career as a journalist and television presenter, later launching a line of clothing shops. She first came on the BBC Radio 1 airwaves in February 1970.

Nightingale is being widely celebrated, with BBC Radio 1’s other famous Annie, Annie Mac, writing on Instagram, “What a devastating loss. Annie Nightingale was a trailblazer, spirited, adventurous, fearless, hilarious, smart, and so good at her job. This is the woman who changed the face and sound of British TV and Radio broadcasting forever. You can’t underestimate it.”

Radio 1’s Pete Tong also commemorated Nightingale, recalling that “Annie was a pioneer, a trailblazer and a role model, who possessed a relentless passion to discover and champion new & groundbreaking music. During her career Annie championed everything from prog rock and punk to acid house, techno, big beat, breakbeat, dubstep and grime.

“Annie’s always been a massive inspiration for me in the sense that she carved out the path at Radio 1,” Tong continued, “proving you could have a career in radio by just staying in your lane and specializing in championing new and exciting artists. Play what you love. She wrote the book on what music radio could be.” 

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