Veteran BBC radio presenter Steve Wright dies aged 69

Veteran BBC radio presenter Steve Wright dies aged 69

Veteran BBC radio broadcaster Steve Wright, one of the most familiar voices on the airwaves in the UK, has died at the age of 69.

Wright joined the BBC in the 1970s, going on to host shows on BBC Radio 1 and 2 for more than four decades which attracted millions of listeners, and was a long-standing presenter of Top Of The Pops.

He last appeared on air on Sunday, hosting a pre-recorded special Valentine’s Day edition of his Love Songs programme on Radio 2.

A statement shared to the broadcaster by Wright’s family said: “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.

New Year honours list 2024
George Michael with BBC Radio DJ Steve Wright (PA)

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

Born in Greenwich, London in 1954, Wright’s career at the BBC began when he started working as a clerk. He later left in 1976 to begin his broadcasting career at Radio 210 in Reading.

The broadcaster joined BBC Radio 1 in 1980 to host a Saturday evening show before moving on to host Steve Wright In The Afternoon a year later until 1993.

Wright then fronted the Radio 1 Breakfast show for a year until 1995, and completed a stint at commercial radio stations before returning to BBC Radio 2 in 1996 to host Steve Wright’s Saturday Show and Sunday Love Songs.

In 1999, he recreated Steve Wright In The Afternoon every weekday on Radio 2, with celebrity interviews and entertaining trivia featured in his Factoids segment, before stepping down in September 2022.

Former BBC Radio 1 host Scott Mills took over the afternoon slot as part of the station’s schedule shake-up.

Wright continued to present Sunday Love Songs on BBC Radio 2 and since October last year, he presented the long-running show Pick Of The Pops, which had previously been fronted by acclaimed radio DJ Paul Gambaccini.

He was made an MBE for his services to radio in the December 2023 New Year Honours list and said he wanted to dedicate it “to all the people in broadcasting who gave comfort and public service during the pandemic”.

His friend and long-time BBC radio colleague Ken Bruce said he was “totally shocked” by the news as he revealed they were planning to celebrate Wright’s “richly deserved” MBE with a lunch in the near future in a tribute post on social media.

“An outstanding and innovative broadcaster whose listeners loved him. What a loss to the world of radio,” he added.

In a heartfelt video message shared to Instagram, Gambaccini recalled writing: “If you want to hear the first radio star of the radio 1980s, listen to Steve Wright” in his column in the Radio Times many years ago.

He added alongside the post: “We will love you forever. We will miss you.”

Head of BBC Radio 2, Helen Thomas, said Wright “understood the connection and companionship that radio engenders better than anyone, and we all loved him for it” in her tribute post.

“He was a consummate professional whose attention to detail was always second to none, and he made his guests laugh, he was fair, and he wanted to showcase them and their work in the best possible light, bringing brilliant stories to our listeners”, she added.

She recalled feeling “pure amazement” watching him 20 years ago when he became the first presenter she produced.

“For all of us at Radio 2, he was a wonderful colleague and a friend with his excellent sense of humour, generosity with his time, and endless wise words,” she added.

“We were lucky to have him with us for all these decades, and we will miss his talent and his friendship terribly.”

BBC director-general Tim Davie paid tribute to Wright, saying everyone at the BBC is “heartbroken” at the “terribly sad news”.

Paul McCartney and Steve Wright
Paul McCartney surprising Steve Wright and his production assistant Dianne Oxberry back in 1990 (PA)

He added: “Steve was a truly wonderful broadcaster who has been a huge part of so many of our lives over many decades.

“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.”