[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 5 July 2007, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Jazz performer George Melly dies
George Melly, 2003
The veteran musician had been suffering from ill health

Jazz singer and author George Melly has died at his London home at the age of 80, his wife Diana has announced.

The flamboyant performer had been diagnosed with lung cancer and vascular dementia, a condition which affects the brain after small strokes.

Despite his illness, the jazz veteran was still appearing on stage in the weeks leading up to his death.

In January, the Liverpool-born musician was taken to hospital after collapsing on stage in East Sussex.

He brought us a lot of fun and a lot of pleasure
Roy Hudd

His final concert took place at the 100 Club in London on 10 June in aid of Admiral Nurses, part of the charity For Dementia.

According to his wife, Melly was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005 for which he refused all treatment.

Melly, who began his career in the Navy, was also a lecturer on art history as well as a film and television critic.

He also wrote the words for the Flook cartoon strips in the Daily Mail, drawn by his friend Wally Fawkes.

George Melly, 1983
Melly combined his jazz career with writing and broadcasting

Jazz singer Dame Cleo Laine said: "He was a hidden intellectual to most of his admiring fans, being able to converse with great knowledge of the arts in general.

"He will be sadly missed for the joy of life and harmless fun he generated in his performances."

Dame Cleo Laine's husband, jazz musician Sir John Dankworth, added that Melly was "loved" for his traditional blues songs.

Long-time friend Digby Fairweather said: "Before he died he asked me to record an album of his favourite tunes. We completed it yesterday which is very sad because he never got to hear it."

Musician Van Morrison called Melly a "dear friend, a uniquely gifted character and a true original", adding "he'll be sadly missed".

'Most cherished sons'

From the 1970s until 2003, Melly performed with John Chilton's Feetwarmers.

"He was a charismatic performer whose wonderful blending of jazz, blues, jokes and anecdotes was unique. He was an extremely affable companion who always championed the underdog," said Chilton.

"He was a very nice man, unique and unforgettable," he added.

Friend and contemporary Roy Hudd described him as "the perfect Victorian man - he could do everything".

George Melly
Melly performed at the Newark Jazz Festival in May

"He brought us a lot of fun and a lot of pleasure," he told BBC News 24.

"It was rather a tight-arsed thing, this revival of trad jazz, but George brought huge fun to it."

Broadcaster and friend of Melly, Michael Pointon, called him "a wonderful man", praising his "immense courage" towards the end of his life.

"When we travelled around the US together he was such fun all the time," he said. "He reached out to a much wider audience with his music."

The son of a wool broker and an actress, Melly was born in Liverpool in 1926 and educated at Stowe.

He joined the Navy at the end of World War II before joining jazz trumpeter Mick Mulligan's band, travelling the length and breadth of Britain.

"They were terrific times we had. Hard drinking and squalid digs but absolutely no regrets," Melly recalled.

After quitting music in 1962 to concentrate on writing, he resumed his jazz career in the 1970s and went back on the road with John Chilton's Feetwarmers.

George Melly, 1957
He was renowned for his zoot suits, jaunty fedoras and outrageous ties

Away from show business, his main recreation was fly fishing - a passion he indulged at the mile-long stretch of the River Usk he owned beside his holiday home in Wales.

The jazzman continued to perform despite collapsing on stage in January during a concert with his band, Digby Fairweather's Half Dozen.

"I don't fear death," he said recently. "I'm a fatalist, although I would rather death came as a shock to me.

"I've always said I wanted to die either coming off stage with the applause in my ears or of a terminal stroke on a river bank with two trout by my side."

Melly is survived by his wife, his son Tom, his daughter Pandora, his stepdaughter Candy and his four grandchildren.

Liverpool's Lord Mayor Paul Clark said: "Liverpool has lost one of its most cherished sons. George Melly was more than just a jazz legend, his contribution to literature, art and journalism ensured his place as one of Britain's cultural greats of the 20th century."

Obituary: George Melly
05 Jul 07 |  Entertainment
Singer Melly collapses on stage
26 Jan 07 |  Entertainment

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific