I wrote a post exactly a month ago inspired by hearing music from the classic African disc Burundi: Musiques Traditionnelles on Charlie Gillett’s BBC Radio 3 programme. I mentioned in the post that Charlie was ill and was having to give up the show. This week we had the sad news that Charlie has now died.
As the Guardian noted in it’s obituary, “Few people can have opened so many ears to such a variety of music over the last four decades as Charlie Gillett”.
His early love was American, rhythm and blues and rock’n’roll – he wrote the much acclaimed book The Sound of the City: Rise of Rock and Roll.
It was Charlie who first picked up on Dire Straits, playing their Sultans of Swing on his Radio London show Honky Tonk and, so the story goes, was fielding calls from half the A&R men in London before the song had finished. The rest, as they say, is rock history.
Charlie, along with Gordon Nelki, managed Kilburn and the Highroads with Ian Dury. Together they founded Oval Music a record label / publisher that, amongst other things, first issued the album Another Saturday Night – Classic Recordings from the Louisiana Bayou including Johnnie Allan’s fabulous version of Promised Land.
Charlie was there when a bunch of world music enthusiasts met to devise a strategy for promoting music from different cultures to western listeners. It was at this meeting that the term World Music was chosen as the umbrella name for this diverse music.
Despite the accomplishments listed above, it was probably through his radio shows that Charlie Gillett was best known. From Radio London’s Honky Tonk, through his shows on Capital, to his series on the BBC World Service and Radio 3’s World on 3, he introduced many listeners to the likes of Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita and Mariza (to name just a few).
As I write this, just days after Charlie Gillett’s passing, there are 21 pages of tributes posted to his website. Testimony indeed to a much loved broadcaster.
Charlie was responsible for a series of World Music compilations on the EMI Hemisphere label. Today’s track, in tribute, is taken from World 2000 and is Lo’Jo’s Amadou Morito.