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Image for George Shearing, Derek Rawcliffe, Brian Jacques, Daniel Bell, TP McKenna

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George Shearing, Derek Rawcliffe, Brian Jacques, Daniel Bell, TP McKenna

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 18 February 2011

John Wilson presents Radio 4's obituary programme.

We retrace Sir George Shearing's jazz journey from Battersea to Birdland - pianist Julian Joseph demonstrates the secret of Shearing's keyboard technique.

The Right Reverend Derek Rawcliffe was known as Britain's first gay Bishop after he outed himself on Newsnight.

How former Liverpudlian milkman and docker Brian Jacques became one of the biggest selling children's authors in the world.

Sociologist Daniel Bell's big ideas included a prediction of the internet - three decades before it was invented.

And how actor TP McKenna became a familiar face on stage on screen.

  • Sir George Shearing

    Jazz pianist who has died aged 91.

    Jazz pianist George Shearing was blind from birth. He was brought up in a large working-class family in south London. After taking to the piano at the age of three he was offered several musical scholarships but opted instead for a residency in a local pub. In thrall to the American big band sounds of the 40s, he emigrated to New York and made his mark on the new jazz scene. He developed a style of playing called ‘locked-hands’ technique and – with his band – forged what became known as the ‘Shearing sound’. His best known composition, Lullaby Of Birdland, was originally written as the theme tune for a New York radio show, but was later covered by many artists, including Sarah Vaughan.

    John Wilson spoke to his biographer, Radio 3 broadcaster Alyn Shipton.

    George Shearing was born 13 August 1919 and died 14 February 2011.

  • Right Reverend Derek Rawcliffe

    Openly gay Bishop who has died aged 89.

    In March 1995 the Right Reverend Derek Rawcliffe discussed his homosexuality on Newsnight and, in doing so, became the first openly gay Church of England bishop. Rawcliffe had spent more than 30 years working on islands in the south Pacific and had been awarded the OBE for his services. In the 1980s he transferred to a very different diocese when he was appointed Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway.

    John Wilson spoke to the BBC’s former religious affairs correspondent Ted Harrison.

    Derek Rawcliffe was born 8 July 1921 and died 1 February 2011.

  • Brian Jacques

    Best selling children’s author who has died aged 71.

    Brian Jacques was a former merchant sailor and milkman from Liverpool’s dockland district who went on to be a much loved presenter on Radio Merseyside. But to millions of kids round the world he was the author of a series of fantasy stories about talking animals. His Redwall books were translated into 29 languages. In the American children’s market he is outsold only by JK Rowling.

    John Wilson spoke to Mick Ord, editor of Radio Merseyside.

    Brian Jacques was born 15 June 1939 and died 5 February 2011.

  • Daniel Bell

    American sociologist and futurist who has died aged 91.

    In the post war years, as austerity gave way to consumer prosperity, Daniel Bell was one of the world’s ‘big thinkers’. He was a Harvard social scientist who predicted the trends of the coming years. He pioneered new ideas about a post-industrial ‘Information Age’. In the 1960s he predicted an electronic global network that, in retrospect, sounds like the internet that was still three decades away.

    Last Word hears from his friend and colleague Professor Nathan Glazer and the futurist Ray Hammond.

    Daniel Bell was born 10 May 1919 and died 25 January 2011.

  • TP McKenna

    Irish actor who has died aged 81.

    TP McKenna, was a regular face on television and the big screen for more than five decades. The Irish actor was known for his versatility, having learned his craft at the Abbey and Gate theatres in Dublin in the 1950s. He was a regular presence on British television in the 60s and 70’s, with roles in The Sweeney, The Avengers, Minder and Dr Who. His film appearances included Charge of the Light Brigade and Sam Peckinpah’s controversial Straw Dogs.

    For Last Word Matthew Sweet assesses his career.

    TP McKenna was born 7 September 1929 and died 13 February 2011.


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    Last Word

    Radio 4’s obituary programme, marking the lives of significant figures who have died recently,…

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