19 October 1908
London, England, UK
|Died||17 March 2003
London, England, UK
|Occupation||Actor, disc jockey, radio presenter|
|Spouse(s)||Pearl Rebuck (1941–2003, his death)|
Alan Keith OBE (born Alexander Kossoff; 19 October 1908 – 17 March 2003) was a British actor, disc jockey and radio presenter, noted for being the longest serving and oldest presenter on British radio by the time of his death aged 94.
Alexander Kossoff was born in the East End of London and educated at Dame Alice Owen's School at Islington. In 1926 he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he anglicised his name to Alan Keith. He graduated in 1928 with the Silver Medal, and spent the next eight years on the West End and Broadway stage.
By 1935, Alan Keith was already an established voice on BBC radio, appearing in dozens of radio plays as a member of the drama stock company and spending three years as an interviewer for In Town Tonight. He also acted in films, appearing in Dangerous Moonlight (1941), The World Owes Me a Living (1945), The Long Knife (1958) and Yesterday's Enemy (1959). In pre-war television broadcasts, he discovered he had a facility with American accents, and he continued to play American characters on television and radio through the 1940s and 1950s.
Your Hundred Best Tunes
Beginning in the early 1950s, he devoted time to devising and presenting music programmes for the BBC. In 1959, he devised Your Hundred Best Tunes, a programme of light classical music, operetta and ballads. Keith chose the original 100 pieces himself, but in subsequent years they were periodically voted on by listeners.
In early March 2003, at the age of 94, he recorded an announcement that he intended to retire from the programme after 44 years. However, he fell ill almost immediately afterwards, and died soon after; his final programme was broadcast 12 days after his death.
Keith married Pearl Rebuck in 1941 and their son Sir Brian Keith (born 14 April 1944) has been a High Court judge since 2001. He was the elder brother of fellow actor David Kossoff, whose son Paul Kossoff was guitarist with the rock band Free.
In the mid-1960s Keith's "wild" and beautiful teenaged daughter, Linda, became well connected culturally in the early days of "Swinging London". She was photographed by David Bailey and, together with Shiela Klein, partner of the Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Oldham, was at the heart of a bohemian community in London's West Hampstead. She formed relationships with Keith Richards of the Stones and, later in New York, Jimi Hendrix, but drifted into drug dependency. Richards appears to have been instrumental in Alan Keith's going out to America to find his daughter. On their return she was made a ward of court. She later brought up her own family and, in 2010, was living in New Orleans. According to Richards, Linda Keith was the subject of the song, "Ruby Tuesday" ("When you change with every new day/Still I'm gonna miss you").
- Daily Telegraph obituary, 19 March 2003
- Who's Who (1992 and annually); Whitaker's Almanack, annually
- Anthony Barnes (March 19, 2003), Keith; The radio broadcaster who brought the best tunes to the nation over six decades, The Herald; Guardian obituary, 19 March 2003
- Keith Richards (2010) Life