Remembering John Peel, through his passions

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Three passions had dominated his life - family, music and football. And yesterday, as rock stars mingled with radio listeners, they remembered broadcaster John Peel through the things he loved.

Three passions had dominated his life - family, music and football. And yesterday, as rock stars mingled with radio listeners, they remembered broadcaster John Peel through the things he loved.

More than 1,000 people packed into the Cathedral of St James at Bury St Edmunds just a few miles down the road from his home, Peel Acres.

Outside, in the bluster of an East Anglian November day, several hundred more listened to the funeral service of the 65-year-old who died of a heart attack in Peru relayed to them through loudspeakers.

Time and again they heard tributes to Peel's "stupendous'' wife Sheila - "the most important person in his life''. His four children and grandchild, his two brothers and nephew were also the bedrock of his life.

But it was his passion for music which first brought him to the attention of the public and earned for this unlikely public school rebel an extraordinary place in the affections of so many people. His coffin was decorated with red gerberas, the colour of his favourite football team, Liverpool. It arrived to Mozart's "Ave Verum" sung by the Stowmarket Choral Society, of which Sheila is a member.

Then came Howlin' Wolf's hymn to the pleasures of a life well lived, "Going Down Slow". Then came Roy Orbison and his celebration of human frailty "Running Scared" followed by Rachmaninov's "Piano Concerto Number Two".

After the commendation and the blessing, it was football's turn and the cathedral reverberated to the sound of Liverpool's Kop singing "You'll Never Walk Alone".

As his coffin was led down the central aisle, it was the turn of The Undertones, the band he championed most loudly and with whom he is perhaps most closely associated. Their "Teenage Kicks", with its homage to the energy and dreams of the 1970's adolescent, brought smiles and tears.

Fellow broadcaster Paul Gambaccini said Peel had listened to more music from a wider variety of styles than any other man that had ever lived. He was, he said, the most loved broadcaster and had broken more acts than any other person in the music industry.

"He caught people at their most impressionable and emotional and gave them what meant the most to them at the time and they remembered it,'' he said. His passing had left "a little less decency in the world and a lot less music,'' a sentiment greeted with loud applause from those assembled outside the cathedral.

Peel's children remembered a loving and emotional father, whose at times eccentric behaviour had only further endeared him to them. He had taunted them with threats to embarrass them in his dotage.

At his 65th birthday party he was "happier and more contented than we remember,'' they said and had been "looking forward to the day we would buy him a meal or a drink".

The service concluded with excerpts from Peel's work as a broadcaster. As the congregation broke up - his family crushed by grief - led the way to a private service.

Comments