British DJ Jimmy Savile dies at 84

British DJ and entertainer Jimmy Savile, an eccentric personality considered a pioneer in pop music, has died at age 84.
Jimmy Savile, right, appears with Toyah Wilcox on the television show Top of the Pops at BBC TV in 2001. He died Saturday at age 84. (Mark Allan/Associated Press)
British DJ and entertainer Jimmy Savile, an eccentric personality considered a pioneer in pop music, has died at age 84.

He was found dead on Saturday at his home in Leeds, according to the BBC.

Savile was the first pop DJ on British radio and first host of TV music show Top of the Pops, created in 1964 to showcase new music. He also was active in raising funds for charity and had run more than 200 fundraising marathons. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1971 and was knighted in 1990.

Born Oct. 31, 1926 in Leeds, Yorkshire, Savile was the youngest of seven children. During the Second World War, he worked in coal mines as an alternative to active service in the armed forces.

In the 1940s, he started playing records in local dance halls and, by 1947, he was using twin turntables and a microphone, effectively becoming the first disc jockey.

The fast-talking Savile was hired as a broadcaster by Radio Luxembourg and then moved to BBC Radio One.

Ubiquitous broadcaster

As presenter of Top of the Pops for close to 20 years, Savile rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest stars of the 1960s. He also appeared on the show's last program in 2006.

"I remember the date to this moment: Wednesday, Jan. 1, 1964, 7:30 in the evening, live, black-and-white TV. That's what we did," Savile said in a BBC interview, recalling his first appearance.

"First groups: The Hollies, The Rolling Stones, people like that and it was tremendous."

Later, he presented the TV show Jim'll Fix It, where he made viewers' dreams come true. He also appeared on TV as Santa for years.  

With his bleached blonde hair, track suits and ever-present cigar, Savile was an eternally gregarious presence on British radio and television. Although he was a millionaire, he lived frugally and appeared to have no close personal connections.

DJ television broadcaster and charity fundraiser Jimmy Savile is shown in 1972, sporting his OBE. (Fox photos/Getty Images)

"He was a one-off. He was always in a track suit, he was always Jimmy Savile. I don't think anybody really got to know him that well because he was always this larger-than-life character, who did an enormous amount for charity," fellow BBC DJ Tony Blackburn said.

British Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt remembered Savile on Monday as "one of broadcasting's most unique and colourful characters."

"From Top of the Pops to making children's dreams come true on Jim'll Fix It, a generation of people will remember his catchphrases and sense of fun," Hunt said. "But his lasting legacy will be the millions he raised for charity, tirelessly giving up his time and energy to help those causes he was passionate about."