BBC DJ and new music champion Janice Long has died, aged 66

The beloved broadcaster was the first woman to have her own daily show on Radio 1 and the first woman to host 'Top Of The Pops'

Janice Long, a long-time DJ on BBC radio stations and champion of new music, has died, her agent has confirmed.

The beloved broadcaster died at her home yesterday (December 25) after a short illness. She was 66 years old.

Long began her career in radio as a station assistant at BBC Radio Merseyside in 1979, before being given her own programme, called Streetlife, on which she promoted local bands. She moved to BBC Radio 1 in 1983, hosting her own show on Saturday evenings, before moving to weekday evenings for a new music and current affairs programme and the Friday reviews show Singled Out. She was the first woman to have her own daily show on the station.

In her career, Long also became the first woman to regularly host Top Of The Pops, fronting the TV show for five years, and later had a long-running show on BBC Radio 2 until 2017. She also worked for the likes of BBC Radio London, BBC 6 Music, BBC WM, BBC Radio Wales, Greatest Hits Radio and Radio X, and set up her own station Crash FM in Liverpool in 1995.

Janice Long Jo Whiley
Janice Long and Jo Whiley in 2016 CREDIT: Jo Hale/Redferns

Over the years, she gave some iconic acts their first radio sessions including Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Amy Winehouse, while also giving early exposure to the likes of The Smiths, Primal Scream, Adele, Richard Hawley and more.

In recognition of her support of new talent, Long was given the lifetime achievement award at the Liverpool Music Awards in honour of her outstanding contribution to the music industry. In 2016, she was given a British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) Gold Badge and, in 2018, was given an honorary doctorate by Edge Hill University in recognition of her “contribution to popular music and national cultural life”.

In the same year, a portrait of Long was displayed at the Royal College of Art in London as part of an exhibition celebrating female pioneers. Other figures to be featured in the show included politician Betty Boothroyd and boxer Nicola Adams.

Elsewhere in an illustrious career, the DJ served as one of the main presenters for the historic Live Aid concert in 1985, acted as a judge for the Mercury Music Prize and was a patron of Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA).

Tim Davie, Director General of the BBC, said in a statement: “Janice Long was a stellar presenter, who was loved and respected across the industry and her passing is a huge loss to music, broadcasting and the BBC.

Janice Long
Janice Long CREDIT: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

“Over 40 years she blazed a trail across Radio 1, Top of the Pops, Radio 2 and 6 Music to name just a few, before building a wonderful show and loyal following on BBC Radio Wales. She will be missed by her fans, listeners and colleagues. All our thoughts are with them, Janice’s family and her friends.”

Lorne Clarke, Controller, Pop Music for the BBC, said: “Everyone in pop radio was saddened to hear of the passing of Janice Long.  She was long admired for her role as a talent spotter and new music champion, giving Frankie goes to Hollywood and Amy Winehouse their first radio sessions, as well as lighting the way for female radio and TV presenters throughout the industry.  We send our deepest condolences to her family and friends at this sad time.”

Colin Paterson, Head of BBC Radio Wales, added: “As a radio presenter her programmes were never about herself. For Janice, her broadcasting career was an opportunity to discover, share and champion music. There are few people who have done more to nurture new talent from music and the arts. She brought her passion for music to Radio Wales in 2017, supporting Welsh artists and Welsh language music ever since. We’ll miss her passion, her knowledge and her laugh. Our thoughts are with her many friends and her family who meant so much to her.”

Tributes have also begun to be paid online, with musicians, fellow broadcasters and music fans reflecting on her huge impact on pop culture over her career.

“First ever Frankie radio interview was conducted by her on Street Life on Radio Merseyside and she was the first to play us on the radio when she played the demo of “Relax”,” Frankie Goes To Hollywood tweeted. “Always had our back. Condolences to her family and loved ones. RIP X.”

“Such sad news about Janice Long,” wrote Peter Hook. “She was always a great friend and a great supporter of our music. She was a lovely lady and a pleasure to be around. RIP.”

Current BBC Radio 1 DJ Adele Roberts added: “RIP Janice Long. Thank you for everything you did to inspire others and open doors for other women and radio presenters to prosper xx.”

See more tributes below.