Charlie Gillet; b. 20 Feb. 1942; d. 17 March 2010
March 19, 2010 4:52 AM   Subscribe

Musicologist, Writer, Radio Presenter, and Record Producer.
Charlie Gillett who died yesterday was the author of The Sound of the City (1970), which has been described as "the first comprehensive history of rock and roll". Gillett was also among the first DJs to champion Graham Parker, Ian Dury (whom he briefly managed) and Elvis Costello. However he is probably best known for sharing his passion for world music.
I just love this music for its own sake,’ he says. 'I don’t have any other agenda in presenting it. I genuinely believe it’s the best music there is.

Thank you for introducing me to so much good music.

posted by adamvasco (18 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Hadn't heard of this fellow until now: I suppose that's because I never lived in England, never listened to English radio, and never happened to come across his books, but it sounds like he really loved music and turned a lot of people on to the music he loved. And that's a damn fine thing and a life well lived. Thanks for the post, adamvasco.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:11 AM on March 19, 2010

Gillett was a prolific journalist. Many of his great reviews from the 70's are to be found on Rocks backpages free library (search for Gillett) which requires free registry. Others require a hefty subscription.
posted by adamvasco at 5:37 AM on March 19, 2010

Really great DJ -- very sad.
posted by mattn at 5:55 AM on March 19, 2010

There was a tribute on the Strand, that I heard some of last night.
posted by idb at 6:00 AM on March 19, 2010

Gillett wrote a couple of thoughtful pieces for Bicycle magazine in the 1980s. Always came across as an appropriate bloke.
posted by scruss at 6:14 AM on March 19, 2010

he sounded about forty on the radio, didn't realise he'd had such an amazing career. Another sad loss.
posted by runincircles at 6:28 AM on March 19, 2010

The Sound of the City is one of the best books on the first two decades of rock ever written. Thanks for the post.
posted by blucevalo at 6:42 AM on March 19, 2010

NPR broadcasted a 2008 interview with Gillett yesterday. I started listening in the middle and only realized he had died at the end. Thanks for the post.

posted by emhutchinson at 6:59 AM on March 19, 2010

posted by motty at 7:00 AM on March 19, 2010

What a top man - introduced me to all sorts of amazing music. He was also responsible for giving Dire Straits their first break.
posted by patricio at 7:03 AM on March 19, 2010

In January 1980, about 350 other students and I walked into Cole Hall auditorium at Northern Illinois University for the first class session of our History of Rock and Roll course -- to the booming strains of "Back to Schooldays" by Graham Parker on the room's lo-fi system. Most came in the belief (or hope) that this would be nothing but one long stoner blow-off easy A.

Boy did they have another think coming, and Charlie Gillett's Sound of the City was one of the reasons. I still have my copy and will break it out for a re-read this weekend.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:20 AM on March 19, 2010

I'll miss Charlie awfully. The amount of great music my brother and I have thanks to him says it all really. He found some amazing stuff, and was always finding newer, even more interesting stuff.
It had seemed strangely quiet since he dropped his radio 3 show and was only on for about an hour a week on world service, but we at least had his weekly recommendations in publication and his website. As far as I know there's no one to take over for him either, a bit like John Peel's death left a void on UK radio, having been the only listenable thing on radio 1 for some time.

The world's going to be a duller, far less sonically interesting place now. Had hoped he was going to hold on for years to come.
posted by opsin at 8:14 AM on March 19, 2010

When I got my first job in the music industry, my boss lent me his copy and insisted I read it cover to cover.

Now I come to type that, I realise that I miss my old boss. And I miss that book. I wonder if I still have it?
posted by Jofus at 8:16 AM on March 19, 2010

posted by Jofus at 8:25 AM on March 19, 2010

The peculiarities of british radio have produced a number of really thoughtful, knowledgeable and fascinating presenters of music, among them John Peel, who has been mentioned here in the past, and Charlie Gillett, another prime example.
"I continue to get the greatest enjoyment from setting two or three records alongside each other which have no generic relationship yet feel as if they enhance each other - they may come from different times and places but share a sound, an emotion, a detail. While some of these are records I discover as I pick my way amongst the packets that come through the door in a daily avalanche, and others are remembered from records filed away on my shelves, some are introduced by my guests who bring their different points-of-view in the game I call Radio Ping Pong where we take turns to play records for an hour."
He will be missed.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 8:32 AM on March 19, 2010

posted by LMGM at 9:42 AM on March 19, 2010


So sad. He had such a lovely, easy-going radio voice - it really felt like he was just in the corner of the room chatting straight to you, playing you a few things he'd come across that he hoped you'd like.

I listened to him on the World Service and thought he was much younger too.

Thank you for broadening my horizons, Charlie, you will be missed.
posted by penguin pie at 3:05 PM on March 21, 2010

posted by El Brendano at 3:51 AM on March 22, 2010

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