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LAST WORD
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Last Word
Listen to the latest editionFriday   16:00-16:30
Sunday 20:30-21:00 (rpt)

Radio 4's weekly obituaries programme
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This week
Friday 28th March 2008
(Rpt) Sunday 30th March
Matthew Bannister
Matthew Bannister tells the life stories of people who have died recently: Neil Aspinall, Philip Jones Griffiths, Mikey Dread, Shusha Guppy and Nigel Acheson.
Neil Aspinall
Beatles road manager and music executive who has died aged 66 

They called him the fifth Beatle – and Neil Aspinall had certainly been friends with Paul McCartney, George Harrison and John Lennon from a time before the Beatles even existed. He stayed with them until last year, when he finally stepped down from running their company Apple Corps.

Neil Aspinall was born in North Wales during the war, when his father was serving in the Navy and his mother had been evacuated from Liverpool. At the Liverpool Institute he was in the same English and Art classes as Paul McCartney who introduced him to Harrison and Lennon. It was the beginning of an association which saw Aspinall become their most trusted lieutenant and the brains behind the business empire which exploited the band’s extraordinary back catalogue with great financial success.

Matthew Bannister talks to Bob Neaverson who co-wrote the book At the Apple 's Core, and to John Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia. 
 
Neil Aspinall was born October 13th 1941. He died March 24th 2008.
Philip Jones Griffiths
Photographer who has died aged 72

Philip Jones Griffiths was a Welsh photojournalist who is perhaps best known for his work on the Vietnam War. His 1971 book , Vietnam Inc, had a huge influence on American attitudes towards the war.

He was born in Denbighshire in North Wales and studied Chemistry at Liverpool University before landing a job as a pharmacist at a Boots store in London. Whilst there, he was able to indulge his love of photography by getting involved in processing film. In the 1960s, he became a freelance photographer, covering the Algerian war in 1962, before travelling across central Africa. He joined the famous Magnum photographic agency, and went on to become its President.

Philip Jones Griffiths covered the conflict in Northern Ireland, drought in India, poverty in Texas and the legacy of the Gulf War in Kuwait as well as the war in Vietnam.

Last Word hears from Philip Jones Griffiths's Magnum colleagues, Ian Berry and David Hurn along with what’s believed to be Philip’s last interview with the BBC correspondent Jon Manel. 

Philip Jones Griffiths was born February 18th 1936. He died March 18th 2008.
Mikey Dread
DJ, broadcaster, producer and singerwho has died aged 54

Mikey Dread was a champion of Jamaican street music, perhaps best known in Britain as a producer of The Clash.

He was born Michael Campbell at Port Antonio on the Northern coast of Jamaica. Whilst at college in Kingston he began researching the history of reggae for an essay and met some of the big names on the music scene. The influential engineer King Tubby encouraged him to record original material. Mikey’s first single Barber Saloon  was a blend of rapping and singing which became known as the sing-jay  style. His follow up Love the Dread  gave him a stage name. But it was his radio show which inspired the musician and filmmaker Don Letts to introduce Mikey to Paul Simonon of The Clash.
 
Michael George Campbell was born June 4th 1954. He died March 15th 2008.
Shusha Guppy
Singer and author who has died aged 72

Shusha Guppy was a writer and singer who was born in Iran, moved to Paris as a teenager in 1950 and lived in London from the mid 1960s. She was the daughter of a distinguished Shia theologian and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tehran. As a teenager in Paris she met writers, artists and poets like Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Louis Aragon. She recorded albums of Persian folk songs, old French songs and her own compositions.

After marrying the writer and explorer Nicholas Guppy, the couple moved to London, where she remained, living in Chelsea after their divorce in 1976. Shusha’s first book – The Blindfold Horse - was a memoir of her Persian childhood. It was highly praised and won a number of literary awards. Her second volume of memoirs dealt with her time as A Girl In Paris.

Matthew Bannister talks to David Suratgar and the poet Christopher Logue who were both friends of Susha Guppy along with Iradj Bagherzade who was her publisher. 
 
Shusha (Shamsi) Guppy was born December 24th 1935. She died on March 21st 2008.
Nigel Acheson
Radio Producer

This tribute is by Nigel’s colleague at Loftus Productions, Matt Thompson:

Nigel began his radio career at BBC World Service where he wrote Spy in the Sky, a detective story for those learning English. He then worked in the famous Talks and Docs department at Broadcasting House. There he gained a reputation for developing enduring programme formats such as Going Back, which won a Sony Award and Document, which is still running. In 1994 he won a George Foster Peabody Award for The Unspeakable Atrocity, about the Holocaust. In 1996 he left the BBC to begin Loftus Productions and won further British and international awards, including the prestigious Chicago Third Coast Festival Gold Award for She's All Right My Mum Is about young carers, and the Premio Ondas for It’s All down to Ben about a young heroin addict - awards he shared with reporter Kim Normanton.

Nigel was not a flash person nor was he a flashy producer. He was interested in outsiders and how they negotiated an existence with the rest of us. The hallmark of his programmes was a lovely dry wit which always came through. He loved music and his use of it in radio was intuitive and deft. His programmes had a peculiar magic: at first you would notice nothing except riveting storytelling, then without knowing quite how it was done, the listener would realise to their surprise this programme was floating about a foot above the ground.

He was a great radio producer because he was a good listener. Bruce Chatwin, who knew Nigel when he lived in Brazil, said he had to be very careful with Nigel because he would end up telling him everything. He was innately curious about other people. Even when ill at the Royal Marsden Hospital he couldn't help but notice there were several fascinating characters in the ward who might make good subjects for radio programmes. No matter how anonymous someone might appear to be, Nigel would find the story within them, and believed it was a story worth listening to.

Nigel died in his sleep on the morning of 28th March at home in Shepherd's Bush, London. He had GIST, a very rare form of stomach cancer.

He is survived by his long term partner Fernando Soares.

=======================================

Andrew Caspari, Radio 4 Commissioning Editor writes:

Nigel was simply one of the greatest radio producers of our time. What Nigel was as a man he gave to his work. So the work was careful, thorough, inspired, imaginative, brave, original and rounded.
I will remember him as a sculptor of audio: carefully massaging or chipping away at the material to arrive at a form of radio where the whole finished piece was so much better than the original concept or the raw material. This made his work so easy to commission and such a privilege to hear.
He was an inspiration to a huge number of producers and presenters. He battled bravely against cancer over many months, during which he consistently sought to keep working at his great love, radio. Nigel will be massively missed.

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