LONDON – Terry Wogan, whose warm Irish brogue and sly, gentle humor made him a star of British television and radio for decades, has died. He was 77.
His family said in a statement that Wogan died Sunday surrounded by his loved ones “after a short but brave battle with cancer.”
The disc jockey and presenter was a staple of British broadcasting, best known for his long-running BBC radio morning show “Wake Up To Wogan,” his annual hosting duties for Britain’s coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest and his long-standing association with the Children in Need telethon.
Born in Limerick, Ireland, in 1938, Wogan began his broadcasting career on Irish network RTE before moving to the U.K. and the BBC, for whom he hosted quiz programs, game shows and a 1980s television talk show.
His strengths were a deep, buttery voice, dollops of Irish charm and a wry sense of humor. His Eurovision commentary affectionately mocked the kitsch pop music competition, at which Britain generally fared badly.
He hosted “Wake Up To Wogan” between 1972 and 2009 — with a break from 1984 to 1993 — and made the show the most popular on British radio, with 8 million listeners. Wogan called his fans TOGS, for “Terry’s Old Geezers or Gals.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said “Britain has lost a huge talent — someone millions came to feel was their own special friend.”
Former CNN talk-show host Piers Morgan tweeted that Wogan had been “the greatest TV & Radio broadcaster. A legend of all airwaves.”
Fellow BBC broadcaster Jeremy Vine said someone once asked Wogan how many listeners he had.
“Instead of answering 9 million, which would have been accurate, he said: ‘Only one.’ And it was this approach that made him one of the greatest broadcasters this country has ever seen. He only ever spoke to one person.”
Wogan, who had joint Irish and British citizenship, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005. He is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.