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2000-2004 - Travelling to the end

John PeelAt the start of the new millennium, John Peel was working more than ever, with Home Truths, an internet radio presence, World Service and as an increasingly in-demand voice-over artist. But he still found time to introduce the White Stripes, The Datsuns, The Strokes and The Hives to the UK.

However in July 2001, John's close friend and former producer, John Walters, died suddenly.

Peel wrote of his relationship with Walters in a Radio Times column:

"I have always characterised the relationship between us, in an irritatingly self-conscious parody of (Paul) Klee, as that of a man and his dog, each believing the other to be the dog."

Walters' production partnership and friendship with Peel lasted more than 20 years.

In March 2002 John made an appearance on the television programme Room 101, presented by comedian Paul Merton. Guests on the show pick a certain number of personal irritants to banish to Room 101. John was on good form, trying to get rid of Essex, death and beards. He was in such high spirits that he even did the unthinkable and wore an Everton FC shirt as a joke for Paul Merton.

John Peel on Room 101.

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After a trip to New Zealand, John had caught the travel bug and the Daily Telegraph picked up on this, commissioning Peel as a travel writer - a sort of indie Michael Palin.

There was one final schedule change for John in 2003, and his show was put back to 11pm. John was still getting top ratings, in fact he was more popular than ever, but he found the new time tiring. He also had a new grandchild to fuss over - Archie, whom he adored and was proud to "vigorously grandparent".

John also finalised a book deal for an autobiography, 100,000 words long to be delivered by March 2005, but the book was never finished.

On October 26, 2004, John had a heart attack whilst on a working holiday in the Inca city of Cuzco in Peru. He died suddenly, with his wife Sheila by his side.

Tributes arrived from bands, fans and supporters from all around the world. Among the first to pay their respects were such seminal British artists as Blur, Oasis, and New Order. Prime Minister Tony Blair also paid tribute.

Radio had lost an original voice, musicians had lost a champion, fans had lost a hero and Britons had lost their favourite uncle. John Peel's death was mourned by teenagers, their parents and even their grandparents.

Peel often spoke wryly of his eventual death. He once said:

"I've always imagined I'd die by driving into the back of a truck while trying to read the name on a cassette, and people would say, 'he would have wanted to go that way.' Well, I want them to know that I wouldn't."

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