Sunday, 9 April 2017

BRIAN MATTHEW: KILLED SOFTLY WITHOUT A SONG




Take away the thing a man lives for, and he loses the will to live. Deprive him of the single pursuit that gave shape and meaning to the otherwise bleak process of shuffling heavily towards the grave, and you puncture a person's soul. This is what The BBC did to Brian Matthew when they kicked him off Sounds of the Sixties. They as good as killed him softly without a song.
Not content with the slaughter, they proceeded to make insensitive bordering on callous comments in the press; to re-jig the schedule and appoint successors in a way that clearly left no possibility of an eventual return. Then, to add the greatest of insults to the untimely injury, they falsely announced his death, a full three days before he expired. What I've been told is that his family prepared a statement in readiness for the inevitable, which was then passed to the BBC to hold on file. There is nothing suspicious or out of the ordinary about this. When I started out on staff at the Daily Mail, I was regularly placed on 'obit duty', updating the substantial obituaries of luminaries that were kept, ready to roll. I remember rewriting Elton John's and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's on the same day. Which had symmetry, when you think about it. But the blessed BBC stuffed up, and rushed to declare that Brian had already died. The error was unforgivable. They have not apologised publicly for it.
The last time I saw Brian was in the BBC studio where he recorded his show with producer Phil Swern, with whom I was going next door to the BBC Club for a glass of wine or four. Brian declined to join us. His carriage awaited, he said. He had to get home, he added. To Pam? 'To nothing, really,' he replied, mournfully. 'I get up to nothing, and I go home to nothing. I'd live here in the studio if I could.' Which was no insult at all to his stalwart wife. She knew her husband inside out. She knew to give him room.

We all know the man as a legend. He was also a man of honesty, dignity and integrity, who was so proud to be an important part of our rich industry heritage. He will be forever missed. God rest you, dear Brian Matthew. You were not only the voice of the Sixties. You were the voice-over of our lives. 

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