Charlie Gillett died last week, and both the man and his career were celebrated in a number of the broadsheets and indeed, by the BBC, for whom he had worked consistently over the years. He was a man who loved music and musicians from deep inside his very well informed bones. He celebrated the music of Britain and then over the years, increasingly, the musics of all corners of the world. He wrote a seminal text on the music I love and grew up with, The Sounds of the City – The Rise of Rock and Roll. All of this you can read about in depth now on the internet.
I met Charlie in the early ’80’s when- along with Michael Parker and Jerry- I was busking in The Three Courgettes on the Kings and Portobello Roads. We were singing new wave versions of ’50’s gospel. Charlie loved us, and had us on his programme several times. We’d come in, stand around the mike, and crack into it. He was totally supportive and promoted us into Island Records, along with Gaz of Gaz’s Rockin Blues club, another of our gigs.
Then I didn’t see him for decades, until one day in conversation with my great friend the publisher Ernest Hecht, I discovered that it was Ernest who was Charlie’s publisher! Charlie, it transpired, frequently went to Arsenal with Ernest. So at Ernest’s birthday last year, I saw
him again, with his wife, Buffy. I had sung that night, and Charlie said some very nice things indeed about my work and my repertoire.
Coming from a man who had made his territory on the music of the UK pretty clear in recent times, it was heartening to me and somehow made a full circle from that earlier time, to this one.
I was incredibly saddened to hear of his passing. Both for his wife and family, for the musicians and music he loved and promoted, and for a very good man. A man who could take a stand and walk his talk, and was big enough to be able to change his mind.
Barb Jungr has just returned from a stint at the Cafe Carlyle in New York, and will appear at the Pizza Express Dean Street on Daturday March 27th with pianist/ arranger Simon Wallace. Her early set is sold out, but there are still some tables for the 10 30pm set.
A huge loss to music, and musical diversity, in the best sense of the word ‘diversity’.
There’s virtually nobody to champion the range of music he loved and continually surprised listeners with. His depth of knowledge, open-mindedness and his wonderful radio presence made him very special.
He will be missed. Greatly.