Tributes are flowing for Michael Parkinson, the legendary British chat show host who died Wednesday (Aug. 16) at the age of 88.
Parky, as he was affectionately known in his homeland, championed countless musicians across his career on TV, during which time his talk show was a “must-see” staple on British TV.
The broadcaster’s seemingly endless conveyor belt of top celebrities ensured high ratings and, over time, included almost every big name in the music scene, from members of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, to Elton John, Tina Turner, David Bowie, George Michael and Robbie Williams.
With his predilection for adult-leaning, often jazz-oriented performers, Parkinson’s program gave a platform for the likes of Jamie Cullum, Katie Melua and Michael Bublé, among many others.
Starting out as a print journalist, Parkinson became a producer at the commercial British TV channel Granada in the late 1960s. He became the archetypal chat show presenter via a weekly program for BBC1 which began in 1971 and ran on Saturday nights for 361 editions until 1982. His “Parkinson” show continued from 1998 until his retirement in December 2007, with a star-studded finale which included such guests as David Beckham, Michael Caine, David Attenborough, Judi Dench, Billy Connolly and Cullum.
Parkinson was saluted on numerous occasions for his work. In 1998, he became a Gold Badge recipient – an award that pays tribute to people judged to have made a special and lasting contribution to the U.K.’s entertainment industry.
In 2000, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to broadcasting. And in 2005, Parkinson was honored with the Music Industry Trusts’ Award, otherwise known as the “person of the year,” presented annually to an individual who has made a distinctive and lasting contribution to the U.K. music industry. On the night, Parkinson was declared as “the musicians’ champion.”
In 2008, he was Knighted for services to broadcasting.
A proud Yorkshireman and lifelong cricket fan, the broadcaster passes a decade after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which he batted with radiotherapy.
Many of those celebrities who appeared on Parkinson’s popular show have paid tribute to the broadcasting legend.
“Michael Parkinson was a TV legend who was one of the greats,” writes Elton John on Instagram. “I loved his company and his incredible knowledge of cricket and Barnsley Football Club. A real icon who brought out the very best in his guests. Condolences and love to Mary and his family.”
Parkinson “was irreplaceable,” recounts veteran actor Michael Caine, “he was charming, always wanted to have a good laugh. He brought the best of everyone he met. Always looked forward to be interviewed by him.”
Adds retired England soccer great David Beckham: ‘I was so lucky to not just be interviewed by Michael but to be able to spend precious time talking about football and family our 2 passions plus the GoldenBalls moment.”
Writes actor Stephen Fry, “Having grown up watching him interview greats, my first appearance was impossibly thrilling for me. The genius of Parky was that unlike most people (and most of his guests, me included) he was always 100% himself. On camera and off.”
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