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Steve Wright, legendary Radio 2 presenter, dies aged 69

Veteran BBC radio host Steve Wright has died at the age of 69.

Wright, who presented shows on Radio 1 and Radio 2 for more than 40 years, last appeared during a pre-recorded Valentine’s Day edition of his Love Songs programme on Sunday.

The news was first announced by a tearful Sara Cox on her Radio 2 show on Tuesday, who later said: “It’s really hard to know what to say about the news of Steve Wright’s passing except that we are all absolutely devastated and shocked and blindsided by this news,.

His death was confirmed by his family in a statement shared on Tuesday: “It is with deep sorrow and profound regret that we announce the passing of our beloved Steve Wright.

“In addition to his son, Tom, and daughter, Lucy, Steve leaves behind his brother, Laurence and his father Richard. Also, much-loved close friends and colleagues, and millions of devoted radio listeners who had the good fortune and great pleasure of allowing Steve into their daily lives as one of the UK’s most enduring and popular radio personalities.

“As we all grieve, the family requests privacy at this immensely difficult time.”

BBC director general Tim Davie said: “All of us at the BBC are heartbroken to hear this terribly sad news. Steve was a truly wonderful broadcaster who has been a huge part of so many of our lives over many decades.

Steve Wright in 1981 (Getty Images)
Steve Wright in 1981 (Getty Images)

“He was the ultimate professional – passionate about the craft of radio and deeply in touch with his listeners. This was deservedly recognised in the new year honours list, with his MBE for services to radio.

“No one had more energy to deliver shows that put a smile on audiences’ faces. They loved him deeply. We are thinking of Steve and his family and will miss him terribly.”

A fan, Andrew Ward, told the BBC: “Today we lost a genius and a national treasure. The greatest DJ this country has ever produced. Simply decades ahead of his time. Comic mayhem but comic brilliance. I listened to Steve for 40 years – including last Sunday.”

BBC’s travel news presenter Bobbie Pryor, a longtime colleague, said to Sara Cox: “It’s very difficult... he gave us so many people opportunities, he inspired most of us, and he would be furious we are crying now and making such a fuss... so dearly missed. Such a great friend.”

Wright was born in Greenwich, London, in 1954 and grew up in New Cross, south London. His father, Richard, managed the Burton’s menswear store in Trafalgar Square.

Wright first joined the BBC in the early Seventies as a clerk before leaving to start broadcasting in 1976 at Thames Valley Radio. His big break came in 1979 when he got his own nightly show on Radio Luxembourg.

He then returned to the BBC in 1980, taking over a Saturday evening slot on Radio 1.

Radio DJs Tony Blackburn (left), Steve Wright and Paul Gambachini (right) (PA)
Radio DJs Tony Blackburn (left), Steve Wright and Paul Gambachini (right) (PA)

The show that would define his career and last more than 35 years, Steve Wright in the Afternoon, was launched in 1981. During its first iteration, which lasted until 1993, he introduced the “zoo” concept to British radio, featuring spoofs, comedy skits and wacky segments.

After a brief stint hosting the Radio 1 breakfast show, Wright left for two years at Talk Radio. He rejoined the BBC in 1996.

From 1999 to 2022, Wright retained his afternoon show. On 1 July 2022, there was an outcry as Wright announced that the show would end in September, as Radio 2 boss Helen Thomas “wanted to do something different in the afternoons”. His slot was taken over by Scott Mills while Wright continued to present Sunday Love Songs as well as various specials and podcasts.

On BBC television, Wright hosted Home Truths, The Steve Wright People Show, Auntie’s TV Favourites, Top of the Pops and TOTP2.

He was married to Cyndi Robinson until their divorce in 1999 and has two children.