Johnnie Walker: If I stopped doing Sounds Of The 70s I’d probably die sooner

BBC Radio 2 DJ Johnnie Walker believes without being the presenter of his show the Sounds Of The 70s, he would “probably die a lot sooner”.

The 79-year-old broadcaster revealed on a special episode of the show that his idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPS), which causes the lungs to become scarred and makes breathing increasingly more difficult, is “terminal” and getting “progressively worse”.

He spoke about his condition on an episode, titled Walker & Walker: Johnnie & Tiggy earlier this week, along with his wife, who acts as his carer, saying that he has “a finite amount of time left here in the physical before I pass over”.

BBC Radio 2 veteran DJ Johnnie Walker with his third wife Tiggy at the Royal Investitures
BBC Radio 2 veteran DJ Johnnie Walker with wife Tiggy (centre) (Fiona Hanson/PA)

Walker, who also hosts The Rock Show on Fridays on Radio 2, has had other health issues.

In 2003, he was diagnosed with a malignant tumour in his colon, and took a break from his radio show before returning the following year and in 2019, he underwent surgery for heart problems.

Walker now uses an oxygen machine for his IPS and told the Telegraph he does “panic occasionally when I can’t breathe” but says he is “not in pain”.

He said: “For many people, Sounds Of The 70s is part of their Sunday afternoon. As long as I can keep doing the show I will. It gives me a purpose. If I stopped doing it I’d probably die a lot sooner.

“Anyway, when you play records you are bringing back memories for people as well as playing records that they love.”

Walker, who has spent nearly six decades on the airwaves, has been married to Tiggy since December 2002.

Radio 2 DJ Johnnie Walker with Sir Elton John at the Sony Music Awards
Johnnie Walker with Sir Elton John at the Sony Music Awards (Yui Mok/PA)

Tiggy says that she is “utterly exhausted” and says Walker “could live for another six months and, on one level, the thought terrifies me”.

According to the newspaper both are in favour of assisted dying, but Walker does not wish to go this way.

He says: “I’ve even said, if I get a chest infection, which would kill me in two or three days, I don’t want to go to hospital. I want to remain at home.”

Walker began in the 1960s in pirate radio, first on Radio England before making his name on Radio Caroline.

He joined Radio 1 in 1969 to host a Saturday afternoon show, and left for Radio Luxembourg in 1976. He returned in the 1980s to the BBC station to present Saturday Stereo Sequence.

He started his own weekly show on Radio 2, before taking over the Drivetime show in 1999 and leaving after Chris Evans got his slot in 2006.

That same year, he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) at Buckingham Palace for services to broadcasting by the then Prince of Wales, now King.