Humphrey Lyttelton

Oh dear. Humphrey Lyttelton died last night.

86 is a pretty decent age to get to, though!

Sad there will be no more “I’m sorry I haven’t a clue”… or at least, they will never be quite the same.

Radio 4 had seem so reliant on old men… With John Peel (a shock early death) and Ned Sherrin gone, who is left? Nicholas Parsons and Clement Freud are getting on a bit, well into their 80s. All these Old Men of Radio… Barry Cryer must be getting on a bit, though he seems robust to the point of indestructible, fitting with his adolescent character and childish sense of humour.

OK, I’m not big fan of trad jazz, but understand his importance. And of course know his contribution to Radiohead’s “amnesiac”. And the Beatles “Lady Madonna”!

Lyttelton ran a jazz club; told very rude jokeson Radio 4; presented a jazz programme on radio 2 for 40 years; had an old 1970s Volvo, which he still maintained even though it had been round the clock 3 times. He was a calligraphy expert, a cartoonist on the Daily Mail, a journalist and “romantic socialist”.

He was also – admirably – among a small group of people who have turned down a knighthood. (A group which includes: David Bowie, Alan Bennett, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, LS Lowry…)

Well, of course it’s easier to live a life like that if you come from an aristocratic, privileged background (educated at Eton etc.). But it would also be very easy to follow the accepted path of the landed gentry and go into law or the City… So I think this shows his truly rebellious nature – to turn his back on the obvious careers and follow his love of music.

One last footnote: the name Humphrey had been eschewed by his family for hundreds of years because the last Humphrey Lyttelton was implicated in Guy Fawkes’s famous plot. His parent’s decision to break with tradition and use this name suggests even as a newborn baby he showed that spark of rebellion.

Leave a Reply