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March 17, 2010

Adieu to the BBC's Charlie Gillett, one of the original world music DJs, with deep appreciation for all he did for those of us who followed in his tracks

Charlie Gillett obituary | Television & radio | The Guardian

New York Times obit

Dave Hucker, "Hey Mr. Music" from The Beat vol. 25 #1, 2006, had this to say in praise of Charlie:
Back in 1970 when I was an innocent 18-year-old,  Charlie Gillett had published his definitive work on the history of American r&b and soul, The Sound of the City (Sphere). He had starting writing it in 1966 as the subject of a master's degree at Columbia University and he certainly produced a bonafide masterpiece. Sound of the City was the bible, helping us to understand how the history of post-World War II American black music and its industry fitted together. This book laid out the roots and routes like never before.
Back in London, with his enthusiasm, encyclopedic knowledge and record collection, Charlie became a radio dj playing soul, r&b and blues. His shows drew many new listeners and over the years he moved from niche programming to wider popularity, but never enough for a prime-time show! Like many of us during the '70s and '80s Charlie began taking an interest in a wider range of music from all over the globe.
However, Charlie went further than most people. Some of us just took from the parts of the world that interested us but Charlie, the consummate polymath, absorbed and was interested in everything. And through his weekly shows for the BBC World Service he opened things up to a lot of people who might not normally have had access to this variety of music. A listener in Kinshasa, for example, might discover the existence of Argentine star Chango Spasiuk or hear Russian bands. He currently operates from London BBC local radio station GLR-the shows are archived at www.bbc.co.uk/radio .
Six years ago he started doing compilations of the best of the year's music that had come his way. His latest offering, Sound of the World (Wrasse), covers in its two cds the high points of 2005 with 33 artists from 28 countries. It is a well-informed selection of the outstanding music from all around the world that has floated to the top. Represented here are Charlie's eclectic choices--Volga from Russia, a dip into Kenyan rap, a pick from New Zealand. Popular favorites such as Mali's Amadou and Miriam rub shoulders with Croatians Darko Rundek and Brazilian Seu Jorge as Charlie intelligently passes through many countries of the various continents. Sound of the World is an object lesson in exactly how to do a compilation.


  1. Very sad and a great loss to us all. Charlie was a true gentleman who kept his enthusiasm for music to the very end. I had the honour of being on his radio shows a few times and was always humbled by the breadth and depth of his knowledge.
    Dave Hucker

  2. Still much missed seven years later. I had the good fortune to be on his show just once and he was a lovely chap and put me at my ease when I was feeling very nervous in front of the microphone. Still nobody else out there in radioland that can take his place. There are some of his old shows on a dedicated FB page if anyone is interested.