Annie Nightingale, the first female DJ on BBC Radio 1, has passed away at the age of 83 at her home in London.
Born in Osterley, Middlesex, England, in 1940, Annie Nightingale had worked in television as a reporter for South Today, BBC’s Southampton and Bristol-based news program in the ’60s before taking a leap into the music realm as a pop music columnist. In the later years of the decade, she became inspired to be a disc jockey after hearing pirate radio ships that broadcast pop music from international waters. Once those were outlawed, BBC Radio 1 was launched, but it was three more years until Annie Nightingale had her chance to audition after repeatedly being denied as a woman.
After her initial trial run of shows in 1970, Annie Nightingale was signed to BBC Radio 1 and became the first female DJ on the station. She remained as such for the next 12 years of the station’s history, gaining the ability to play underground and experimental music that was emerging at the time. Not only did Annie Nightingale help showcase the early sounds of prog rock and punk, but years later, she would be at the forefront of another cultural shift, the acid house movement.
Annie Nightingale helped bring the sounds of dance music to the masses throughout the ’90s, becoming a fixture during late-night party slots on Friday and Saturday nights as the rave scene continued to grow. The sounds of techno, big beat, breakbeat, dubstep, grime, drum and bass, and more would receive support in subsequent years as those genres began to surface and captivate the dance music community.
Colleagues and longtime friends of Annie Nightingale have begun to share their thoughts on this icon. “She was always the epitome of ‘cool,’ relentlessly curious and enthusiastic and hungry to learn,” Annie Mac, another beloved BBC Radio 1 DJ, wrote on Instagram. “She always had the messiest desk in our office, the best outfits, and the most outrageous stories to tell. She was so sound!”
Pete Tong also shared his sentiments on his longstanding friendship with her. “Annie’s always been a massive inspiration for me, in the sense that she carved out the path at Radio 1, proving you could have a career in radio by just staying in your lane and specialising in championing new and exciting artists,” he said on Instagram. “Play what you love. She wrote the book on what music radio could be …. Quite literally.”
Annie Nightingale received recognition for her work in the music community and British royalty, gaining an MBE appointment in 2002 and a CBE appointment in 2019. She also notably entered the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-serving female radio presenter in 2010, while her memoir Hey Hi Hello was released in 2020.
Our hearts go out to the family, friends, and fans of Annie Nightingale around the world. She will be missed.