Published Mar 18, 2010One of the staunchest advocates of the concept of world music has passed away. Broadcaster, music publisher and CD compiler Charlie Gillett died in London Wednesday (March 17) at the age of 68 following a long illness. The Guardian reports that he had recently suffered a stroke, then last week, a heart attack.
Charlie Gillett's World of Music was a long-running radio show on BBC Radio 3, and introduced a wide variety of artists to a global audience. Major stars who benefitted from his exposure included Youssou N'Dour, Salif Keita and Mariza. Along with the late John Peel, he was renowned as a taste-making radio personality and highly regarded among the world music sector of the music industry and among fans.
Of the many testimonials left on his Sound of the World page on BBC's website and his personal Facebook page, most took the tone of sincere thanks for his love of music and the warmth of his personality.
One comment on Facebook reads, "You became 'world music' to me. You embodied its open-minded ethos like no other. You always struck me as a genuine music fan who wasn't scared to ruffle feathers, but was also generous in praise and not afraid to admit you were wrong. Great virtues."
Gillett started as a journalist and author. His book, Sound of the City, published in 1970, chronicled the first decade-and-a-half of the history of rock'n' roll, and is still regarded as an early classic of rock journalism.
He soon turned to broadcasting, initially with BBC, then with privately run radio stations in London, then back with the Beeb once again. His unerring taste started to gain notice with his first radio show, Honky Tonk, which introduced Dire Straits to the world when he played their demo of "Sultans of Swing." He also played demos by Elvis Costello and Graham Parker. Around this time, he moved into music management and publishing, becoming involved with artists such as Ian Dury, Paul Hardcastle and Lene Lovich.
During the '80s, he was one of the early promoters of the concept of World Music. With his weekly radio show having been expanded to two hours upon his return to the BBC in 1995, he became well known around the globe for his forward-thinking programming. That sensibility turned into a series of annual CD compilations starting in 2000. For an artist to land on one of these compilations became a serious career boost.
Gillett's health was in decline for several years, and he cut his radio show down to a half-hour starting in 2006, the same year that he was awarded the John Peel Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music Radio by Britain's Radio Academy. He continued to work steadily until his death, and was a regular presence at world music industry events and concerts.
He leaves his wife Buffy, two daughters, one son, and two grandchildren.